Kobe Bryant: A Look Back at His Third NBA Championship

Kobe Bryant, Champion: NBA Finals 2002 (Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Jersey Nets)

The term "three-peat" was first used in sports by Pat Riley, who coached the Los Angeles Lakers during their attempt to win a third consecutive championship in the 1988-1989 season. They came up short that year, losing in the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons (who would be attempting the three-straight feat two seasons later). 

However, Riley's dream was not realized by a team until the 1992-1993 season, when the Chicago Bulls won their third straight. The Bulls repeated this accomplishment in the 1997-1998 season. 

The common factor between the two Chicago three-peats had been Phil Jackson coaching great players. That scenario seemed to be playing out again in the 2001-2002 season, with the L.A. Lakers attempting to win a third consecutive title.

Kobe Bryant's 2002 season would be among the more efficient of his career. Continuing the trend set the season before, Bryant and teammate Shaquille O'Neal were equally effective on offense, and Bryant's perimeter defense was among the best in the NBA. 

A 58-24 regular season record was good for second best in the league, behind the powerful Sacramento Kings. The Lakers would then coast through the first two rounds with a record of 7-1, bringing back memories of their dominating run a season before. However, a major road block would be met in the conference finals, in the form of the Kings.

Bryant would lead the Lakers in scoring during the three of the first five games of the series, but the Lakers would fall behind 3-2. In the pivotal Game Six in Los Angeles with their season on the line, Bryant and O'Neal would provide a combined 62 points to send the series to a Game Seven in Sacramento.

The two Laker stars would answer the bell again in Game Seven, with Bryant providing 30 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists, and O'Neal producing 35 points...

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