Ladies and gentlemen, your World Champion Los Angeles Lakers

Yep, the Lakers rolled, 99-86, to eliminate the Magic in Game 5 of the 2009 Finals. It is the franchise’s 15th title and Phil Jackson’s 10th as a head coach.

Kobe got his first ring without Shaq. His legacy as one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players is secure. Even though he is the league’s most polarizing personality, he deserves a ton of credit for the way he led the Lakers this season. He deferred to his teammates time and time again, and they came through when it mattered most. This is no big deal for a lot of players, but Kobe is a different beast.

Unfortunately for the Magic, the competitiveness of these Finals is going to fade as time goes on. The Lakers’ ability to clinch in five games seems dominant on paper and people are going to forget that if not for two plays — Courtney Lee’s missed alley-oop in Game 2 and Jameer Nelson’s failure to contest Derek Fisher’s game-tying three in Game 4 — this series easily could have gone into Game 5 with the Magic leading, 3-1. But by losing tonight the way they did, most people are going to forget how evenly matched these two teams were.

Heading into the offseason, it’s going to be interesting to see what’s ahead for each of these teams. Hedo Turkoglu, Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat and Shannon Brown are all entering free agency. If Jerry Buss is willing to go deep into luxury tax territory, the Lakers may elect to repeat this year’s success and sign both Ariza and Odom. My guess is that they re-sign Ariza and let Odom go. As for the Magic, they sound like they’re willing to go over the luxury tax threshold to re-sign Turkoglu. Gortat is a valuable player, but since he plays behind Howard, it will be hard to justify matching a significant offer.

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Kobe steps out of Shaq’s shadow. Lakers win NBA Finals.

Trevor Ariza should not be so surprised. He played great. Anyway…

Kobe did it, after a few failed attempts and a whole lot of drama he has succeeded in leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the top of the NBA, and finally without Shaquille O’Neal there to throw his coattails under everyone. This marks Kobe’s 4th championship, tying O’Neal’s tally.

Other big news is of course Phil Jackson winning his 10th championship, making him the all-time leader for coaches. For more on that look a couple of posts down.

You can check the box score here and see the stats for yourself, but of all places, seems to be the first place with a nice summary of the game:

Despite falling behind by nine points in the first quarter, the Lakers stepped on the gas in the second, reeling off 16 unanswered points, a run keyed by Trevor Ariza, and took a 56-46 lead at the half. The Lakers were in front by as many as 18 in the second half and didn’t allow the Magic a rally to send the series back to Los Angeles.

The 15 titles by the Lakers are two shy of Boston’s all-time record. It was also a sense of redemption for the Lakers, who lost in the Finals to the Celtics last year. It’s their first time raising the trophy since 2002, the last of three consecutive championships.

Over the course of this series, the Magic never seemed to have things go their way. In fact, watching the games, even when Orlando was winning by considerable margins I felt like it would only be a matter of time before the Lakers steamed back. The inconsistency of the Magic play didn’t instill any confidence in me, and it doesn’t seem to have done much for the Orlando players either.

Credit Kobe Bryant though, he may not have had any incredible performances in this series, but his excellence each night more than enough makes up for it. He’s a deserved Finals MVP.

I’m not going downtown tonight.

Phil Jackson the greatest coach ever?

With the Lakers and Magic duking it out right now on the tube I gotta wonder again about whether or not Phil Jackson might not be the best coach in NBA history. 9 championship rings and more than likely a 10th in the near future are nothing to balk at. Granted he has had pretty much the best teams in NBA history to coach and granted he coached my childhood hero Bulls to legendary status, but I’ve never liked the Lakers (don’t tell anybody in Los Angeles please) so maybe I can try my hand at an objective conclusion here. Maybe I better leave off, this is quite a subject to try and tackle in a post. Here’s what Jay Mariotti at Fanhouse had to say about it:

Some coaches merely dream the dream. Others actually live it, 10 times. We are watching the greatest NBA coach ever, America.

Appreciate him. For tonight might be the last time you see Phil Jackson on a sideline, even if he doesn’t have to do anything but call timeouts.

A quick word to be true (the article Mr. Mariotti has written is quite good and much longer), but to the point. I suppose it’s fun to try and decide who really is the best coach in history. Here’s an idea too though, is success necessary to be great? I agree that they seem to go pretty hand-in-hand, but skill has taken a back seat to luck and tragedy plenty of times before. Who’s to say really? Personally, I thought Larry Brown coming into Detroit and leading that team to a championship over the heavily favored Lakers was some of the best coaching I can remember. On the other hand, I might just have it out for the yellow and purple.

Finals commentary, prior to Game 5

Jason Whitlock, Kansas City Star: I’ve never been much of a Phil Jackson fan. Give me Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant and I’ll fill a trophy case, too. Jackson, the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, doesn’t belong beside Red Auerbach, the most accomplished coach in NBA history. The Zen Master, as Jackson is referred, is a wonderful manager of egos and a suspect strategist, vulnerable to exposure by the game’s top tacticians such as Larry Brown and Gregg Popovich. That’s what I used to think before the current NBA finals series. I didn’t fully appreciate and/or comprehend Jackson’s brilliance. Orlando’s Stan Van Dumby has placed Jackson in proper perspective for me. So tonight, if Jackson surpasses Auerbach by securing a 10th championship, I will not offer an objection when analysts claim Jackson is Auerbach’s equal. For the first time in his career, Jackson is poised to win the title with an inferior team. I know that statement contradicts the lies you have been fed by the so-called experts who cover the NBA. But the truth is, Van Dumby has more tools in his work belt than Jackson.

Bill Plaschke, LA Times: “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Bryant said, laughing. The same questioner reminded him that it would soon be a topic. “It won’t be a topic,” Bryant said. “Won’t be an issue.” The questioner asked him to elaborate. “No,” Bryant said. “That’s exactly why it won’t be an issue.” It was my turn. I first accused Bryant of bringing up the subject, and he laughed again. “I didn’t bring it up,” he said. “I deflected.” Then I asked the only question on this subject that I figured he might answer. I asked, could you imagine playing for anyone else besides the Lakers next year? “No,” he said. Bingo. That’s enough for me, and should be enough for the Lakers. Unless Lakers officials somehow botch the negotiations for the new deal Bryant will demand after opting out of his contract — and they won’t, they love Kobe — then Bryant will be around to attempt another three-peat.

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Finals Game 4 reaction

John Romano, St. Petersburg Times: Oh, technically the NBA Finals are still far from complete. Orlando still has another home game on Sunday night. And if you buy the old coaching mantra of one-game-at-a-time, you can picture a scenario where the Magic still comes away with a title. But realistically, the end is near. You could see it the moment the ball left Derek Fisher’s fingertips in the final minute of overtime on Thursday night. You could see it in the frustration of Mickael Pietrus when he whacked Pau Gasol from behind in the final seconds. You could see it on the scoreboard that betrayed an arena filled with fans after looking so friendly for most of the night. The truth is, Orlando blew its chance to be the champion of the NBA in Game 4 on Thursday night.

T.J. Simers, LA Times: We probably won’t know who has been actually coaching the Lakers this series until Phil’s next book is published. Right now the best we can do is offer congrats to Coach Phil & Coach Kobe and thanks to the Magic for playing as if it has never been coached to win a big game. The guy coaching the Magic was so outclassed against the likes of Coaches Phil & Kobe, he was playing a rusty Jameer Nelson with the game on the line. If the guy’s not coaching a YMCA team next season, he might want to instruct Nelson not to sag on a three-point shooter like Derek Fisher when leading by three. As for the Lakers, it’s very confusing at times who is in charge around here, especially the way Kobe has been playing.

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