Does Kobe Bryant Have His Own Pippen in Ron Artest?

Was that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen out there punching Phil Jackson's ticket to yet another NBA Finals; No. 13 to be precise?

No, but on Saturday, Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest sure pulled off a nifty imitation of Batman and Robin, the latter of whom produced the first six of Jackson's 10 rings.

That No. 24 Bryant wears for the Los Angeles Lakers is quite appropriate. With each passing oh-my-gosh bucket—the Game 6 clincher against the Phoenix Suns a fallaway, off-balance jumper with Grant Hill's hand in his face—Bryant looks one better than No. 23.

"He's one of the few players I've ever seen who can literally will the ball into the rim,'' teammate Derek Fisher said.

And Artest? He wears No. 37, not No. 33, the ace defender by trade turned into an offensive force. "The Lord was with him,'' Jackson said.

For sure, the basketball gods are smiling on the NBA, which will serve up the Lakers in the Finals for the 31st time against their nastiest rival, the 17-time champion Boston Celtics.

Edition No. 11—the Celtics are 8-2 vs. the Lakers, including 2008's latest whipping—came about because Bryant and Artest tag-teamed the Suns from start to finish of a 111-103 victory.

In his quest for a fifth ring, Bryant was beyond Jordanesque.

This was written on the Suns' whiteboard before the game: "In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away.''

They all belonged to Bryant on Saturday, not the Suns. He scored 37 points, 13 in a bust-away third quarter and 11 in the final three minutes to hold off a frenzied Phoenix rally that sliced an 18-point lead to three.

His backbreaker came with 34 seconds left with the Lakers clinging to a 105-100 lead. After Bryant drilled the jaw-dropping shot right in front of Alvin Gentry, he came over and patted the Suns coach.

"Hey, I'...

About the Author