LOS ANGELES — Purple and gold confetti raining down upon him, Kobe Bryant hopped up on the scorer’s table, shook his fists and extended five fingers.
When he hopped down, Boston’s legendary Hall of Fame center Bill Russell was waiting to shake his hand.
A Game 7 classic — and this time, it finally went the Lakers’ way.
Beating Boston for the first time in a Game 7, the Lakers came up champions again after trailing in the last quarter of the last game of their season.
Kobe Bryant scored 23 points despite 6-of-24 shooting and the Lakers won their 16th NBA championship Thursday night, dramatically rallying from a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 83-79 in Game 7 of the NBA finals.
Bryant earned his fifth title with the Lakers, who repeated as NBA champions for the first time since winning three straight from 2000-02.
Ron Artest added 20 points for the Lakers, who shot terribly while trailing for most of the first 31/2 quarters. Yet they reclaimed the lead midway through the fourth quarter and hung on with big shots from Pau Gasol and Artest.
“Well, first all I want to thank everybody in my hood,” Artest said in an ABC interview 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 confetti and streamers after the final buzzer, Magic Johnson rushed the court to congratulate Bryant, who now has the same number of titles, and to hug Artest, the only new addition to the Lakers’ championship roster from last season. Artest has been a liability for much of the postseason, but the former head case came up with a remarkable game on the Lakers’ biggest night, playing sturdy defense along with his scoring.
Paul Pierce had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who just couldn’t finish the final quarter of a remarkable playoff 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 5 back home.
After three quarters of mostly terrible offense, the Lakers tied it at 61 on Artest’s three-point play with 7:29 left. Bryant’s free throws 90 seconds later gave the Lakers their first lead of the second half, and the Lakers went up by five points before Bryant and Sasha Vujacic hit free throws in the final seconds to keep Los Angeles ahead.
The Lakers will relish this title because they took it from the Celtics, their greatest rivals, with fourth-quarter poise and defense. The teams have met in 12 NBA finals, but the Lakers won for just the third time.