"KO-BE! KO-BE!" "M-V-P! M-V-P!"
Just a couple of chants that become synonymous with the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center for 20 years from 1996-2016, as a young boy from Lower Merion High School went on to create a legacy of his own and followed a long list of Hall of Famers to arguably become the greatest Lakers in franchise history.
This boy is none other than the great, Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba, as he is popularly known, achieved everything possible in the NBA. The regular season MVP in 2008, a 4-time scoring champion (3 consecutive from 2005-07), 18-time NBA All-Star, 4-time All-Star Game MVP, 11 All-NBA First team selections, 9-time All NBA Defensive First team selections, NBA Slam Dunk Contest winner in 1997 and definitely not to forget, an incredible 5 NBA championships in 7 final appearances over his 2 decade career.
Many critics state that the sole reason for Kobe winning 3 consecutive titles was due to the fact that he had Shaquille O'Neal ("Shaq"). Of course, Kobe did have Shaq but in no ways did Kobe have a small role to play in those three seasons. Shaq was a monster, he was the single most dominant force in the NBA at the time and he proved that in the finals (2000-02) by bagging the Finals MVP award in all those seasons.
Having said that, Bryant always had a chip on his shoulder. People doubted whether Bryant would have won a ring without Shaq. He silenced his critics 7 years hence when he lifted the Larry O'Brien trophy as the leader of a Lakers team that had no All-Star names apart from the Spanish giant, Pau Gasol.
The new dynamic Laker duo went on to repeat the feat the following year in one of the most dramatic finals in NBA history, giving the Mamba his 5th and last NBA Championship.
Now to put things into perspective, let's rank Kobe's 5 NBA championships in terms of circumstances rather than in numbers. Ironically, the order is year wise, his last championship in 2010 being the best.
#5 2000: Against the Indiana Pacers in 6 games
The Lakers were absolutely dominant that year. They won 67 games during the regular season! They pretty much dismantled a very good Pacers side that featured Reggie Miller.
The centerpiece in the first of three consecutive titles for the Lakers was definitely Bryant’s teammate, Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq averaged 38 points and 16.7 rebounds in the finals. Kobe didn’t do too badly himself, contributing 15+ points, nearly 6 rebounds and 4+ assists per game. In fact, Bryant always played the second fiddle when the Lakers won the three-peat as Shaq went on to win the Finals MVP award on all three occasions.
One must not forget though that Shaq would have probably not won those three titles without his deputy, Bryant. They were the best duo in the league since Pippen and Jordan. They were probably even better than the former Bulls pair. The 2000 NBA title brought about the start of Kobe Bryant’s Lakers legacy and Los Angeles found a cornerstone for years to come.