Are the Lakers done for the remainder of Kobe’s career?

The story of how the Lakers lost their way, lost their chance at a place in history, is ultimately a story of how two of the great winners in the NBA lost their ability to control the team.

It’s why Phil Jackson was swept out of the playoffs for the first time instead of adding to his collection of 11 coaching championship rings. It’s why Kobe Bryant, the Most Valuable Player of the past two NBA Finals, couldn’t lead his team back to the championship round. It’s why the unusually early playoff exit and start of retirement couldn’t come fast enough for Jackson, who admitted it felt “really good to be ending this season, to be honest with you.”

“This team just had an ability to get in a funk and not be able to heal and surge, to find that common thread to come back and turn things around,” Jackson said Wednesday in his final address to the media as coach of the Lakers. “And I never really had a team like that, that couldn’t make adjustments and learn from mistakes.”

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Lakers overturn Celtics for the trophy; Kobe creeps closer to Jordan

Los Angeles Lakers have won their 16th NBA championship, rallying from a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 83-79. It was a game-seven classic and this time it went the Lakers’ way. Beating Boston for the first time in a seventh game, the Lakers came up champions again after trailing in the last quarter of the last game of the season.

Kobe Bryant had a horrible 6-of-24 shooting night but still scored 23 points and was named finals MVP, earning his fifth championship. ”This one is by far the sweetest, because it’s them,” Bryant said. ”This was the hardest one by far. I wanted it so bad, and sometimes when you want it so bad, it slips away from you. My guys picked me up.”

Ron Artest added 20 points for the Lakers, who shot terribly while trailing for most of the first three-and-a-half quarters, yet they reclaimed the lead midway through the fourth quarter and hung on with big shots from Pau Gasol and Artest. ”Well, first of all I want to thank everybody in my hood,” Artest said right after the game. ”I definitely want to thank my doctors … my psychiatrist, she really helped me relax a lot.”

With their fifth title in 11 seasons, the Lakers moved one championship behind Boston’s 17 banners for the overall NBA lead. Amid the purple and gold confetti and streamers after the final buzzer, Magic Johnson rushed the court to congratulate Bryant, who now has the same number of titles as the greatest-ever Laker.

Paul Pierce had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who just couldn’t finish the final quarter of a remarkable play-off run after a fourth-place finish in the eastern conference. Kevin Garnett added 17 points, but Boston flopped in two chances to clinch the series in Los Angeles after winning game five back home. ”Listen, give the Lakers credit,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. ”They were terrific.” Rivers knows changes are coming, saying afterward that the 2010-11 Celtics will be different than the 2009-10 team. The Celtics had a 50 per cent record for the final two-thirds of the season, prompting many to wonder if the 2008 champions could turn it back on for the play-offs. That question was answered long ago. Yes, they could – and with one or two more stops on Thursday, they’d have won an 18th title. ”There’s a lot of crying in that locker room,” Rivers said. ”I don’t think there was a dry eye. A lot of hugs, a lot of people feeling awful. That’s a good thing. Showed a lot of people cared.”

After three quarters of mostly terrible offence, the Lakers tied it 61-61 on Artest’s three-point play with seven minutes 29 seconds left. Bryant’s free throws 90 seconds later gave the Lakers their first lead of the second half.

In 2008, the Celtics blew out the Lakers in Boston in game six for their 17th championship. That loss drove Bryant all last season. He was not at his best in game seven and acknowledged as much. But he still captured the finals MVP award, averaging 28.6 points in the series. ”Let’s go for it again,” Bryant said, moments before hoisting the finals MVP trophy. The Lakers will relish this title. The teams have met in 12 NBA finals, but the Lakers won for just the third time.

Kobe Bryant is the best player in professional basketball today, better than LeBron James, better than any and everybody, even if his determined one-on-three efforts in Game 7 Thursday night were misguided and helped the Celtics build a 13-point lead at one point. The Lakers won an entirely dramatic if not very well played winner-take-all Game 7 because Pau Gasol controlled the action from the low block for an important spell, because Ron Artest justified the Lakers’ faith in him by, of all things, hitting a couple of huge shots and carrying the offensive load early when Kobe wasn’t up to it, and because Kobe closed it all out by finding his game in the final few minutes.

And then it was on … the discussion about Kobe’s place in Lakers history, basketball history, sports history, because we obsess over perspective now, as much the fault of sports columnists and TV talkers as anything. The newest entirely lazy thing in sports is simply counting championships and ranking a player accordingly. And because Kobe has surpassed Shaq and Tim Duncan’s four NBA Championships won, has now tied Magic Johnson’s five, and has crept within one of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan’s six, there is this need in some quarters to ask the question as to whether Kobe has pulled even with the likes of Magic and Jordan.

Did the boys in green show up to play? Purple & Yellow sure did

Welcome back to the home of the Lakers, where LA is 10-1 in the post season. It was only the second quarter, but Game 6 was pretty much over. The Lakers were up by 10 points after the first quarter, and 22 points by the second. Los Angeles had responded to the threat of elimination from the NBA finals with the closest thing to a shutout anyone is likely to see in big-time basketball. Buckle up, Boston and L.A. This epic series between old rivals is going to Game 7.

Bryant scored 26 points, Pau Gasol added 17 points and 13 rebounds, and the Lakers emphatically earned a grand finale with a 89-67 victory over the Celtics on Tuesday night. Ron Artest added 15 points for the Lakers, who got their backs off the wall with a dazzling first half. Although the offense was sharp, the Lakers mostly did it with defense, limiting Boston to the second lowest-scoring performance in NBA finals history. Only Utah’s infamous 54-point performance against Chicago in 1998 was worse. “I was very happy,” Bryant said after the defending champions stretched the finals to the limit for the first time since 2005. “We did a great job defensively. We kept them out of the middle, kept them out of the paint, did a good job on the boards. It was a solid effort by us.”

A champion will be crowned Thursday night at Staples Center.