Kobe Bryant finally did it. He finally won an NBA Championship without Shaquille O’Neal, solidifying himself among the NBA legends. This championship, which the Lakers won on Sunday after defeating the Orlando Magic in five games, was Kobe Bryant’s fourth ring and, by all means, his most significant.
When the Lakers won three consecutive NBA Championships (2000-02), Shaquille O’Neal was the leader of the team. He won his three NBA Finals MVP Trophies from all three of those championships.
But after losing to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals, the dynamic duo was split up as Shaq was dealt to the Miami Heat. Ever since then, there has always been some tension between Shaq and Kobe.
O’Neal wanted to win another Championship to prove he could do it without Kobe, and Kobe wanted to get a ring without Shaq to prove he could do it on his own. Well, in 2006, Shaq accomplished his goal when the Heat won the NBA Finals.
At this point, as far as Kobe was concerned, it was on. He wanted a championship, and he wanted it fast. Bryant and his Lakers made it back to the Finals in 2008 where they took on the Boston Celtics. L.A. found themselves down 3-2 against the Celtics heading into Game 6 in Boston. The Lakers were embarrassed in a 39-point blowout, ending their season.
After this, Shaquille O’Neal was ecstatic. He even went so far as to make a rap song about how Kobe can’t win a championship without him. This video became an instant YouTube classic. Evidently, this was the last bit of motivation that Kobe needed. That brings us to the 2008-09 NBA Season.
The Lakers started the season on fire and eventually ran away with the top seed in the Western Conference. They then climbed their way to the NBA Finals where they defeated the Orlando Magic.
During this playoff run, Kobe was all business. I never saw him crack a smile until there was less than a minute left to go in Game 5 and the Lakers had a comfortable lead. When the clock read 0.0 and the final buzzer went off, it was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.
All of his dedication had finally paid off and he proved to himself, and the world, that he could win an NBA Championship without Shaquille O’Neal. Immediately following the game, Shaq wrote nothing but congratulatory comments toward Kobe and the Lakers on his Twitter page, a nice gesture toward his teammate-turned-archrival.
But regardless of what Shaq had to say, Kobe did it. He finally won an NBA Championship on his own.