Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are really living it.
They made it to the NBA Finals during the 2007 season. Sadly, they got beaten by the Boston Celtics in six games.
They returned last season, this time facing the Orlando Magic. The Lakers won this one in six games.
They had some good acquisitions before the season started this year, most notably Ron Artest. Artest came up big in Game Five vs. the Phoenix Suns in this series, pulling up a game-winning buzzer-beater.
Kobe Bryant came up big today in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals; tallying 37 points, six rebounds, two assists, and two steals to lead L.A. towards a 111-103 victory.
But it only gets better.
Yes, we all know the Lakers have beaten the Suns. But it also means another thing: they have made it to the NBA Finals three times in a row.
Three times in a row!
Now that is quite an accomplishment.
It all changes a lot. This also marks the Lakers' sixth time for this decade in the Finals as well. Many people do not credit Kobe for the first three championships.
Well, now, for these recent three where he led them: he should receive all the credit, no doubt.
Bryant had a record of eight straight games with 30-point closeouts.
"I always thought he was the best player in basketball," Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said.
This may also mark Phil Jackson's last year coaching the Lakers, or maybe even coaching any NBA team at all. Jackson looks to bring his last one, if this was his last season.
This would be his fifth with the Lakers if he wins, and 11th for his total.
"Kobe was the man tonight," he said.
The Suns were down during most of the game. But they came back after a 91-74 deficit. They came back and were down by scores like 99-92 and 103-96 during the fourth quarter.
"With a 3-point shooting team like Phoenix," Jackson said, "you know that any lead is not impossible."
With about 13 seconds left in the game, the Lakers were up 109-103. The Suns had one main objective at this point:
Make it from behind the arc.
And they tried to do that. The ball was delivered to point guard Steve Nash. He released the ball from behind the three-point line, but it missed badly.
Kobe Bryant rebounded and was fouled. And of course, Bryant sank both of his free-throws to extend the Lakers' lead to 111-103 with about 11 seconds left in the game.
The Suns were back again. They were looking for an open man.
And then they gave it to Amare Stoudemire, who tried to draw a foul but couldn't succeed. Along with that, he missed the three and it was just plain terrible to say the least.
And the seconds wound down during that three-point attempt, and the Lakers are now returning to the NBA Finals for the third straight time.
And they will face their rival: The Boston Celtics. They had many good rivals, dating back to the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson days and to the Wilt Chamberlain-Bill Russell days.
Now it is different.
It's Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins vs. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Or is it Ray Allen vs. Kobe Bryant? Both veterans, and still make themselves look like superstars.
Or can it be Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest? That brings back memories. It made me start my own show at PantsingPaulPierce.com, when Artest pantsed Pierce in a game a few years back when the Celtics faced the Indiana Pacers.
Rajon Rondo will make the difference as well.
It's going to be a good match-up, that's for sure.
There's also something else that comes in this game. Here's something from ESPN on the game:
Kobe Doing Work
Kobe Bryant has the all-time lead for 30-point playoff road games when his team has the chance to clinch.
Ron Artest played well in this game, scoring 25 points along with four rebounds.
For the Suns, Steve Nash led the way with 21 points, nine assists, and five rebounds. Amare Stoudemire led the team with 27 points along with four rebounds. Jason Richardson added 13 points.
Channing Frye was excellent off the bench; putting up 12 points and 13 boards. Goran Dragic played well off the bench, too, having 12 points like Frye.
The Suns had a good year; we could say that.
But it was the Lakers who just simply better and they played harder. Now they are in the Finals. The past is behind us, even though this game wasn't even that long ago.
But it was it is.
The Celtics vs. the Lakers.
This looks to be fun.
Because the season hasn't finished yet. With the Finals coming up, you better believe the hype has just started now.