The 2010 NBA playoffs were one of the multiple years where the world was ready to see Kobe Bryant face LeBron James in an NBA Finals.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers boasted the two best records in the league. However, the Boston Celtics simply weren’t going to allow that, and they defeated the Cavs in six games in the second round and ended up back in the Finals.
The Lakers had an easier path to playing for a championship, beating a young Oklahoma City Thunder squad in six, the Utah Jazz in a sweep, and the Phoenix Suns in six. Although the NBA may not have gotten Bryant against James, it got the Lakers vs. Celtics.
The person likely most excited about this series was Bryant, who hoped to get revenge on the Celtics for their 2008 thumping of Los Angeles.
The entire series was the definition of a defensive battle. So much so that each team only scored 100 points once during the entire series. And an 89-67 Game 6 victory for Los Angeles would set up an all-time great Game 7 at Staples Center.
On June 17, 2010, the Lakers played the Celtics and the winner would possibly earn the right to call themselves the best franchise in NBA history. The game was no different from the rest of the series.
The Celtics led at halftime by a score of 40-34 and held a 13-point lead during the third quarter, but of course, Bryant and the Lakers would not go down so easily.
The Lakers stormed back and although Bryant had what was admittedly his worst performance of the playoffs, his teammates pulled through.
The game was iced when Bryant passed the ball to none other than Ron Artest, who drilled a 3-pointer with under two minutes remaining. It gave the Lakers a six-point lead and after two game-clinching Sasha Vujacic free throws, it was over and L.A. defeated the Celtics 83-79.
In the end, Bryant led the Lakers with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Pau Gasol put in 19 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, and Artest added 20 points of his own. Bryant later referred to this as the proudest moment of his career.
For Bryant, it was the fifth and final championship of his career. And as he memorably said during a postgame press conference, “One more than Shaq.”