Moment #6: Kobe grows up before our very eyes.
Phil Jackson arrived in 1999 with one goal in mind, return the Lakers to glory. Jackson wasted no time in doing that as the Lakers advanced to the Finals in Jackson’s first season.
Standing in the way of Jackson’s seventh championship was the Indiana Pacers led by Reggie Miller and an old nemesis of the Lakers, Head Coach Larry Bird. The Lakers won the first two games, but a young Kobe Bryant sprained his ankle in Game 2.
Bryant sat out Game 3 which resulted in a Lakers loss, then returned in game four which set the stage for his coming out party as a legitimate superstar.
Game 4 had a thrilling finish which resulted in overtime. Trouble soon came for the soon to be champs as MVP Shaquille O’Neal fouled out with two minutes to play. The 21-year-old superstar then took over for the other half of The Combo.
Bryant calmly hit three clutch buckets counting towards his 28 points, while Reggie Miller failed to win the game at the buzzer for Indiana. Bryant had become a superstar on basketball’s biggest stage and the wheels were in motion for the Lakers’ dynasty.
Moment #5: Phil, Kobe and Fish climb back to the top of the mountain
With a bitter taste from being humiliated in the previous year’s finals, the 2008-2009 Lakers had one goal: Redemption. With nothing but a championship on their minds Jackson’s squad came out focused and ready to take out any team standing in their way.
The focused Lakers overcame a second knee injury to Andrew Bynum en route to the Western Conference’s best record. The season included many memorable moments but all would be for nothing if the Lakers came up empty in the playoffs.
Jackson’s Lakers were tested earlier than thought as a scrappy Rockets team took the Lakers to a seven game struggle and the Nuggets gave the Lakers all they wanted in the Western Conference Finals.
The Lakers were once again the West’s best, and Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic were the only team standing in the way of a championship. The Lakers took the series in five games, although the series featured two overtime games.
Though the Finals weren’t an instant classic this championship was a memorable one. The remaining holdovers from the three-peat, Kobe, Phil and Fisher, could rejoice as they had finally climbed back to the top, while a new crop of players became champions.
For Phil Jackson this championship was even more special because it was his 10th championship as a coach, elevating him above Red Auerbach as the game’s best coach of all time.
Next: Moments Three and Four of the era of Zen
[phpbay]Los Angeles Lakers, 3, “”, “”[/phpbay]