Kobe Bryant’s NBA Titles
Kobe Bryant was among the most talented and productive basketball players in the history of the NBA. A big name on the national scene while at Lower Merion High School just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Bryant, the son of former NBA player Joe Bryant, was selected in the 1996 NBA Draft at the age of 17 and played his entire 20-year NBA career with his favorite team growing up, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Tragically losing his life in a plane crash on January 26, 2020, at the age of 41, Bryant goes down as one of the top players of all time. He was five NBA titles. Let’s take a look back at those championship seasons.
Ring 1: 2000
The Lakers jumped out to the second-best record in league history after 40 games at 33-7. They had winning streaks of 11, 16, and 19 games during the season and finished 67-15 overall.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Lakers disposed of the Kings in five games. The Suns had a similar fate against the Lakers in the second round. Los Angeles had a considerably more difficult time disposing of the Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference Finals. After going up 3-1, the Lakers lost the next two and trailed by 15 in the fourth quarter of the deciding game before a 25-4 run sealed the win.
The Lakers met the Indiana Pacers, who came out of the Eastern Conference with a 56-26 regular season record. They defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and New York Knicks to make the NBA Finals.
The Lakers won the first two games by scores of 104-87 and 111-104. Indiana avoided going down 0-3 with a 100-91 win before they went up 3-1 with a 120-118 win in overtime. Indiana avoided elimination with a 120-87 blowout win in game six. Returning to Los Angeles for the final game, the Lakers won the title with a 116-111 win.
Shaquille O’Neal earned MVP for the series after averaging 38 points and 17 rebounds. Kobe Bryant averaged 15.6 points per game for the series.
Ring 2: 2001
Entering the season as the defending champions, the Lakers lost a few players via free agency. They added veterans Horace Grant and Isaiah Rider to bolster the roster. The team struggled early but got it together late in the season and entered the playoffs with a 5-26 record, second in the Western Conference.
Facing the number one seed in the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers surprisingly won the first two games before blowing them out in the final two games in Los Angeles. In the first round of the playoffs, the Lakers swept the Portland Trail Blazers and eliminated the Sacramento Kings in the second round.
The Lakers met the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals. The 76ers were the top seed in the Eastern Conference, led by Allen Iverson and coach Larry Brown. The 76ers took the first game in Los Angeles in overtime by a score of 107-101. The Lakers evened the series with a 98-89 win in game two and took the next two games in Philadelphia, including a 100-86 blowout in game four.
Returning to Los Angeles, the game wasn’t much of a contest, and the Lakers repeated as champions with a 108-96 win. Shaquille O’Neal led the way, averaging 33 points and 16 rebounds per game. Kobe Bryant also had an excellent series, averaging 25 points, six assists, and eight rebounds per game.
Ring 3: 2002
The Lakers had a solid regular season in 2001-02, posting a record of 58-24, good enough for third in the Western Conference behind the Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs.
Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were both First-Team All-NBA. Bryant averaged 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists, while O’Neal averaged 27.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Other key contributors were Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, and Rick Fox.
The Lakers swept Portland in the first round of the playoffs and took down San Antonio in five games. They faced the Sacramento Kings in the Western Conference Finals and trailed 3-2 before taking the final two games to advance to the NBA Finals.
The Lakers met the Nets, who finished first in the Eastern Conference with a record of 52-30. The Lakers took the first game at home by the score of 99-94 and headed to New Jersey up 2-0 after a 106-83 blowout in the second game. The Nets fought in the third game, but the Lakers took a 3-0 lead after a 106-103 victory. New Jersey failed to avoid being swept, falling in the fourth game by the score of 113-107.
Shaquille O’Neal dominated the series, averaging 36 points and 12 rebounds per game. Kobe Bryant added a very strong 27 points, six rebounds, and five assists per contest.
Ring 4: 2009
The Lakers had one of their best regular season records, cruising to the top of the conference with a record of 65-17. The Lakers’ road to the NBA Finals went through the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets.
The opponent out of the Eastern Conference was the Orlando Magic, who finished the regular season with a record of 59-23. The Magic disposed of the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Cleveland Cavaliers in an impressive playoff run.
Kobe Bryant led the way in the first game with 40 points in a Lakers win. They also took game two overtime thanks to solid play down the stretch from Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Derek Fisher. The Magic won their first NBA Finals games at home in the third game in franchise history.
Trailing by double-digits at the half in the fourth game, the Lakers won in overtime behind the play of Trevor Ariza. The Lakers won the championship at home in the fifth game thanks to a complete team effort on both ends of the court. Bryant won MVP of the finals after averaging 32 points, seven assists, and six rebounds per game.
Ring 5: 2010
The 2010 NBA Finals was a classic featuring the Lakers and the Celtics. The Lakers went 57-25 during the regular season, top see in the Western Conference, while the Celtics were the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 50-32.
The Lakers advanced through the playoffs taking down the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, and Phoenix Suns. Boston defeated the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Orlando Magic to move on to the NBA Finals.
Los Angeles took the first game behind clutch baskets from Bryant, Gasol, and Ron Artest down the stretch. Boston took the second game in large part due to eight three-point field goals by Ray Allen. An outburst from Derek Fisher in the final quarter of the third game sealed the win for the Lakers.
The Celtics took the next two games, putting the Lakers on the brink of elimination. Despite falling behind by 13 in the third quarter, the Lakers rallied to win the series. A 24-point performance from the Lakers’ bench in the sixth game took the series to the final game. Bryant was named the MVP for the second straight year after averaging 29 points and eight rebounds per game.
Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest basketball players ever to play. He will be remembered for his skills on the court and his dedication to winning. Bryant was a fierce competitor who always gave 110%.
His passion for the sport and his teammates set him apart from other players. We can all learn something from Bryant’s determination and drive to be the best.