It had been two years since Kobe Bryant left the parquet floor of TD Garden in tears after his Lakers failed to beat the hated Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.
Now in 2010, Bryant and co. faced a similar dilemma on their home court. Game 7 against the Celtics: get revenge or fall short again.
It was far from a pretty game, but it was an absolutely gritty one, with L.A. scoring just 34 points in the first half.
And for a moment it looked like the Lakers were cursed to repeat history, as they trailed by 13 in the third quarter.
Boston was determined to prevent Bryant from beating them on his own, sending constant double-teams at the Lakers’ star. While the Black Mamba scored a game-high 23 points, he shot just 6-of-24 from the field.
“This one is by far the sweetest, because it's them,” Bryant said afterward. “This was the hardest one by far. I wanted it so bad, and sometimes when you want it so bad, it slips away from you. My guys picked me up.”
The Lakers compensated by dominating the battle for possession, getting extra chances by scrapping for offensive rebounds and turnovers.
This fighting spirit was perhaps best embodied by Pau Gasol, who racked up 19 points and 18 rebounds (half of which were on the offensive glass).
“It’s very sweet,” Gasol said. “It definitely adds up when you beat Boston, especially the rivalry, the history of the franchise.”
Derek Fisher’s 3-pointer tied the game at 64 and sparked an 11-0 Lakers run. Gasol himself added a clutch bucket in the post over three Celtics.
But the lasting image of the night came from the man who coach Phil Jackson called the most valuable player of the night.
Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) was only six years removed from the infamous “Malice in the Palace” brawl that left him suspended for an entire season.
But through tireless work on his own mental health, Artest had rehabilitated his image and become a valuable member of the Lakers’ playoff run.
“He brought life to our team, he brought life to the crowd,” said Jackson.
And when Bryant was met by a double-team with just 1:01 remaining in the biggest game of his life, he trusted Artest to make the biggest shot of his career.
Artest jab-stepped at Paul Pierce before draining a 3-pointer, inflating the Lakers’ one-possession lead to six points.
“He never passes me the ball, and he passed me the ball!” Artest laughed at his now-legendary press conference. “Kobe passed me the ball, and I shot a 3!”
After Artest — who had 20 points and five steals — gave the Lakers that extra buffer, Bryant and Sasha Vujacic sealed an 83-79 victory by hitting all four of their free throws down the stretch.
It was, at times, excruciating for the Lakers, who shot just 32.5 percent from the field and led for only nine minutes.
And it was especially difficult for Bryant, who had more shot attempts than points.
Nonetheless, Kobe was the unquestioned leader of the franchise’s 16th championship, earning Finals MVP honors after averaging 28.6 points in the series and grabbing 15 rebounds in Game 7.
And so it was Bryant who stood on the scorer’s table before his celebrating fans, champion for a fifth and final time.