The 2010 Los Angeles Lakers were on a mission. After getting over the hump and winning the NBA championship in 2009, Kobe Bryant and company were determined to defend that championship and show their dominance over the rest of the league.
Before they could return to the NBA Finals, however, they would have to go through the Phoenix Suns. Led by Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, the Suns were finally looking to get over that hump and make the Finals.
The Suns gave the Lakers a much tougher series than what is remembered now. With the series tied at 2-2, then-Ron Artest rebounded a Bryant miss and hit a shot at the buzzer to give the Lakers a 3-2 series lead.
Heading back to Phoenix the Suns were determined to force things back to L.A. for a decisive Game 7, but Kobe had different plans.
On May 29, 2010, Bryant led the Lakers with 37 points and six rebounds as they defeated Phoenix, 111-103, to advance to their third straight NBA Finals.
This game was also home to one of Kobe’s most memorable individual moments. With Grant Hill draped all over him on defense, Bryant would rise up anyway and nail a huge jumper to give the Lakers a seven-point lead with just 35 seconds left.
Kobe then proceed to turn around and give Suns head coach Alvin Gentry a tap on the behind for good measure, just to rub it in a little bit more that he was sending them home.
Artest also had a huge game for the Lakers with 25 points, knocking down four 3-pointers. Derek Fisher added 11 points while Andrew Bynum had 10 as the Lakers would would advance to take on their rival Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals.
While those Finals are memorable, the road there can sometimes be overlooked. But on this day Kobe led the Lakers past one of their toughest opponents, and had some fun with their coach along the way.