4: 2009 NBA Finals vs. Orlando Magic, Game 1
The Los Angeles Lakers returned to their second consecutive NBA Finals after falling to their arch rival Boston Celtics the season before. Bryant was determined to get the Lakers over the hump and remove the monkey off his back. He had never won a championship without Shaquille O’Neal, and he wanted to prove to the world that he was capable of leading a team.
This time around Kobe faced the Orlando Magic and his newest teammate, Dwight Howard. The Lakers were the heavy favorites going into the series, but Bryant knew public perception didn’t mean anything. He wanted to set a tone in the opening game, and he did just that in Game 1.
Kobe scored an incredible 40 points including 18 in the third, followed up by eight rebounds and eight assists. The Lakers eventually won the series in five games and Kobe took home his fourth ring.
Next Page: Number Three