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Lakers work the magic for 15th title

KOBE Bryant's seven-year chase of a coveted National Basketball Association championship ended on Sunday when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Orlando Magic 99-86 to take an unassailable lead after Game 5 of the best-of-seven finals series.

Bryant now has his fourth NBA title, and coach Phil Jackson his record 10th. One year after conceding the finals to the Boston, Bryant and the Lakers have redemption.

The star shooting guard scored 30 points in Orlando and Pau Gasol added 14 and 15 rebounds as the Lakers earned their 15th crown.

With his fourth championship, Bryant finally stepped out of ex-teammate Shaquille O'Neal's shadow and secured a strong case to be considered the league's best player since Michael Jordan.

Bryant, who averaged 32.4 points and was named finals MVP, said the can-he-win-without-Shaq talk irked him.

"It was like water torture," he said. "I would cringe every time. I was just like, it's a challenge I'm just going to have to accept because there's no way I'm going to argue it. You can say it until you're blue in the face and rationalize it until you're blue in the face, but it's not going anywhere until you do something about it."

O'Neal, now with the Phoenix Suns, was glad to see Bryant win another title.

"Congratulations Kobe, u deserve it," O'Neal said on his Twitter page. "You played great. Enjoy it my man enjoy it."

Jackson, who won six league titles in the 1990s with Jordan in Chicago, now has won four with Los Angeles and broke a tie with legendary Boston coach Red Auerbach as the most successful coach in finals history.

"I'll smoke the cigar tonight in memory of Red," Jackson said in reference to the late Auerbach's traditional victory celebration. "He was a great guy."

Bryant and Jackson, whose relationship strained and briefly snapped under the weight of success, are again at the top of their games.

Bryant had come up short twice in the finals before, in 2004 with O'Neal against Detroit, then last season against the Celtics in the renewal of the league's best rivalry.

Orlando will be haunted by moments in a series that swung on a few plays and had two overtime games.

After losing Game 1 by 25 points, the Magic had their chance in Game 2 but rookie Courtney Lee missed an alley-oop layup in the final second of regulation. In Game 4, Dwight Howard clanged two free throws with 11.1 seconds, and the Magic allowed Derek Fisher to nail a game-tying three-pointer to force overtime.

Howard was hardly a factor in Game 5. He scored 11 points, took just nine shots and never got a chance to get going. Rashard Lewis scored 18 points, but made only three of 12 three-point opportunities for Orlando.

The Magic made just eight of 27 shots from long range.

"I thought our guys fought hard," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "But they just had an answer for everything."

Orlando was trying to become the first team to come from 1-3 down in the finals.

"It hurts," Howard said. "It hurts a lot. But you can learn a lot from losing. Sometimes you've got to lose to win."


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