June 17, 2010, was a night Los Angles Lakers fans will never forget as Kobe Bryant and the team beat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to clinch the 16th championship in franchise history.
This was the second of back-to-back championships for the Lakers, giving Bryant a total of five in his illustrious career.
On the anniversary of an epic Game 7 between the NBA’s two biggest rivals, we counted down the top five plays from what was a low-scoring, back-and-forth affair.
5. Derek Fisher hits a classic late-game 3-pointer
The entire night was an absolute slugfest with menacing defense and little scoring reminiscent of the old-school NBA. With the Lakers down by 13 at one point in the third quarter, they mounted an epic comeback to win 83-79.
All you need to say to Laker fans is 0.4 and they’ll know you’re talking about one of the most clutch playoff closers ever: Derek Fisher. “Give it to D-Fish on the wing,” said Lil’ Wayne in his song, “Kobe Bryant.”
This is exactly what happened as Pau Gasol dished the ball out to Fisher on the wing 6:13 remaining. Fisher held his follow-through after launching a high-arcing 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Rajon Rondo while watching his shot swish through the net.
This shot tied the game at 64 apiece to help the Lakers finally get over the hump of a double-digit third-quarter deficit. The shot was so nice it even drew an iconic, “Bang!” from legendary announcer Mike Breen.
That’s because Fisher could almost always be counted on to make a smooth long-two or 3-pointer whenever the Lakers needed it. His shot with 0.4 seconds left against the San Antonio Spurs will live on forever as will his two clutch threes in Game 4 of the 2009 Finals. However, Fisher hitting this 3-pointer midway through the fourth may be the shot that gave the Lakers momentum to pull off their comeback and win their fifth championship of the Kobe Bryant era.
4. Pau Gasol hits a shot over three defenders
True Laker fans know the importance Pau Gasol played in those back-to-back post-Shaq years. Game 7 may have been the best example of this as the Lakers needed every bit of defense and rebounding they could get from the legendary big man.
With 1:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Lakers were up by four but got true momentum on an epic shot by Gasol. He took a page out of Kobe’s book with expert footwork as he pulled out a spin-move into a pump-fake on the left block.
Gasol then went up over three of the great 2000s defenders in Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett cocking his arm back in mid-air to avoid the block by Wallace. The shot dramatically bounced off the rim twice before dropping in the hoop to put the Lakers up by six when they needed it most.
With Bryant’s broken finger, the Lakers needed all the help they could get on this night. Lamar Odom scored seven points in the game and Andrew Bynum only scored two. While these players will be remembered fondly for this era, Gasol showed everyone why he was so important to the 2009 and 2010 Lakers titles.
3. Sasha Vujacic Makes Clutch Free Throws
Sasha Vujacic was a staple for the Lakers in the mid-to-late 2000s. He and Bryant had a special relationship, largely bonding over their ability to speak Slovenian.
Vujacic always seemed able to turn on a smooth stroke when the Lakers needed him most. That’s why head coach Phil Jackson put him in at the end of the game to ice it with a pair of free throws for the Lakers.
The Lakers were only up by two after a quick Rondo three and then Vujacic validated the trust put in him by sinking the two free throws.
Kobe gritted his teeth before pumping his fist after Vujacic iced the game. Kobe and Vujacic then shared a moment in the huddle touching their heads together knowing that the latter stepped up with the two biggest points of his career.
2. Kobe Bryant Makes the Final Clutch Championship Shot Of His Career
Lakers fans will always remember Game 7 as part of Kobe Bryant’s legacy for a multitude of reasons. While some remain pessimistic on how he played, real ones know that he did absolutely everything he could in that game to will the Lakers to a win.
Bryant may have only scored 23 points on 6-of-24 shooting in this game, but the Black Mamba also grabbed 15 rebounds. This was exactly what the Lakers needed in such a low-scoring game with the two teams battling back and forth all night.
However, the most crucial bucket by Kobe came with 5:23 remaining as he dribbled to the right before raising up for his signature pull-up jumper. Kobe drilled the shot to put the Lakers up by four, giving them their first breathing room of the fourth quarter, while also allowing Lakers fans to breathe.
The most memorable aspect of Game 7 may be Bryant celebrating by tossing the ball up in the air, but this shot will always be a signature Mamba moment as it came on a night where he struggled to get his shot going.
1. “Kobe Passed Me the Ball”
Bryant is not only the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history but may very well be the most skilled scorer in NBA history. However, on this night, it was a pass that led to one of the more memorable moments in Lakers and NBA Finals history.
What makes this play all the more bewildering and special is that Kobe was known for trusting only himself to take the biggest shots. But on this night, he trusted the man formerly known as Ron Artest.
Artest had made some big shots during the 2010 playoffs including a game-winner against the Phoenix Suns. On this play, Kobe passed out of a double-team to an open Artest, who raised up over Paul Pierce to drill the most important 3-pointer of his life with 1:01 remaining.
This gave the Lakers a comfortable lead at 79-73 and was the biggest shot of the game in such a defensive battle. Artest kissed his hands before throwing them up in the air in celebration. It also led to one of the most iconic lines in NBA history: “Kobe passed me the ball!”
“Kobe passed me the ball. He never passes me the ball!”
11 years ago today, Ron Artest & one of the greatest NBA Championship press conferences ever ???? pic.twitter.com/WBhr8XX9Y9
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) June 17, 2021
This very well may be the most memorable Lakers squad and championship of all time, but without Artest’s shot and Kobe’s pass, we may have never heard Kobe say, “5 rings! That’s 5 of em’”
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