x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Fantastic four for Bryant

Kobe Bryant admitted "a big old monkey" was off his back after winning his fourth NBA championship with the LA Lakers.

Kobe Bryant holds up the Bill Russell MVP Award, right, and the Larry O'Brien Trophy as he signals his four career championship victories.
Kobe Bryant holds up the Bill Russell MVP Award, right, and the Larry O'Brien Trophy as he signals his four career championship victories.

Kobe Bryant admitted "a big old monkey" was off his back after winning his fourth NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers, his first without the help of former teammate Shaquille O'Neal. He led the Lakers with 30 points to their 15th NBA championship and first since 2002 with a 99-86 win over the Orlando Magic to seal the series 4-1 on Sunday night, which gave coach Phil Jackson his 10th title as a coach. Bryant also picked up the NBA Finals MVP award, but, more importantly for the Lakers' No 24, it was his first championship win since the end of his partnership with O'Neal, who left Los Angeles in 2004. The shooting guard had faced persistent criticism that he and the Lakers were not capable of winning without O'Neal in their squad and he said: "That's the biggest thing. I don't have to hear that stuff anymore. "I think we as a team answered the call because they understood the challenge that I had, and we all embraced it." He added: "It finally felt like a big old monkey was off my back. "For this moment to be here and to reflect back on the season, it's top of the list." gcaygill@thenational.ae