This article can also be seen at Game 5 - Magic vs. Lakers

The final minutes wound down at the Amway Arena last night as the Los Angeles Lakers finally achieved the goal they had been waiting to reach for about a year now.

God I wanted to punch Pau Gasol in the face so bad. No joke, he looked as smug as the guy on the highway who thinks he's cool because he has his windows down when it's pouring rain. Either that or he actually stepped out of his vehicle and stood in the rain, because the Spaniard was nothing short of soaked with champagne or whatever they spray around that locker room.

Sorry I just had to do that. Back to the topic on hand.

And as a group of Magic fans slowly got up and left the building, they felt disappointed. They felt devastated. But not Kobe Bryant. Bryant looked up and, in a mental picture, waved goodbye to those heartbroken Magic fans. Looked up, and smiled. He could feel that sweet sense of victory. He felt overcome as his body began to go numb.

When he was handed the Finals MVP trophy, he raised it high in the air, acknowledging the fact that he was literally "on top of the basketball world." There was no Kevin Garnett postgame entertainment. There was nothing that we'll remember about Bryant's celebration. But for the Black Mamba, it's a moment he'll never forget.

It was the first time he'd won a championship as the star. People always referred back to Kobe's three previous championships as a player when arguing that he was the best in the game. But Kobe knew that it wasn't worth recognizing as much as people had though it had been.

Why? Because all those other championships were won BESIDE Shaq. ALONGSIDE of Derek Fisher. WITH THE SUPPORT of Big Shot Rob.

Bryant knew that he had MUST win one by himself for his own satisfaction. Sure he was and still is seen as one of the greatest by fellow players and peers. But he wouldn't have considered himself a true winner if he hadn't gotten one on his own.

When Kobe kissed that golden ball, that Larry O'Brian trophy, he finally tasted that sweet sensation he had been desiring for his whole career. He had won a ring for his own gratitude.

Unfortunately for Kobe and Co., the Lakers will most likely not win the championship next year. He won't encounter that golden ball next season. He won't taste that sensation for two consecutive years.

No, we Boston fans won't stand for it. With our eager front office ready to strike first, Celtics fans should feel good about the support and efforts our team executives are putting in this offseason. With stars like Kevin Garnett and role players like Leon Powe returning from nasty injuries this year (Powe may have to miss a month or two in the beginning of the season though), we will have a solid core of big man. That is, when we pluck the big man of our choice out of the free agent market.

Wyc and Danny have assured us that they will work tirelessly to hopefully snag a backup for Paul Pierce whether it be via trade, free agency or the upcoming NBA Draft. It could be former Celtic James Posey, Memphis Tiger All-American Tyreke Evans, or free agent Grant Hill. For a Celtics fan, it sounds intriguing. For Lakers fans, it sounds scary.

Kevin Garnett will be fired up come the start of the season, and his energy will most likely stay at the same level throughout the year. Despite the price, Doc Rivers is hungry to feel that red gatorade splash on his suit once again. Paul Pierce is hoping to raise that gatorade cooler to pour on his shocked coach.

Ray Allen's production may start to decline, but the fact that he will be recovered from the minor injuries that nagged him all playoffs is exciting for optimistic Celtics fans like me.

Rajon Rondo hopes to improve and rise to another tier of top point guards in the league. He can do that by helping to lead his team to a title, something that will prevent Kobe from winning his fifth ring. And let me tell you, the young gun is hungry.

He was .7 rebounds away from averaging a trip-dub in the first round series against the Bulls, and needed just two more rebounds to average a triple-double in the C's second round series against the Magic. In the end, Rondo's averages consisted of 16.9 ppg, 9.7 rpg, and 9.8 apg.

And for LeBron and the Cavs?

Game 5: Magic vs. Lakers

No, LBJ won't stand for it any longer. In his mind, it's time to slide that ring on his finger. It's time to raise the Finals MVP award, and put his arm around teammates who are strangling that trophy awarded to the team who can come out victorious on the final stage.

If Shaq comes to Cleveland, it won't be any different. The expectations will be higher sure, but LBJ, Shaq, Mike Brown, and other members of the Cavs organization will still be determined to come out on top.

James doesn't feel like staying home and rehearsing new ideas for the "MVPuppets" commercial. He'd like to leave that torture for Kobe Bryant next May and June.

Mike Brown would like to prove to people that the COY trophy given to him this year was not a fluke. He would like to show fans around the league that all those practices spent solely on defense were not a waste of time. All those team meetings preaching execution were not useless. Brown would like justify his worthiness as the Cavaliers coach, and would like to convince us and the Cavs that it would be a mistake to fire him.

When Dwight Howard flew on that plane back to Orlando, he was furious with himself. But I think I can assume that that frustration will soon turn into an epiphany for Howard. Seven hours or so of perceiving the errs he made, and relecting on them in a constructive, positive way would do some good for the Defensive Player Of the Year.

Stan Van Gundy won't focus on dressing better next season. Rather, he'll scrutinize his coaching tactics and technique, in an attempt to improve for the better of his players next season.

Jameer Nelson will look to salvage his All-Star talent that he showcased earlier in the season, something that was slightly diminished after suffering a torn labrum, as it's very possible that Orlando could have beaten LA if he was healthy. With Nelson and Rafer Alston as the Magic's two main point guards in the rotation, they'll come into the regular season feeling pretty good above their backcourt (Courtney Lee, Mickael Pietrus, two primary shooting guards).

George Karl won't plan on standing stiff, rigid, and hopeless next season in the playoffs, which is exactly what he did in game 6 in the WCFs against the Lakers, a game that sent the Denver Nuggets home and crushed their dreams of advancing to the Finals. Karl stood there and watched as his team fall miserably. He'll plan on brewing up some tricky plays that can be used when in panicky situations.

Carmelo Anthony has matured into a veteran, one who can lead his team and step up with the Nuggets need him. He showed that in the Nuggets-Mavericks series, where he played through contact (most players would stop when they felt the bump, but the whistle was never blown) and hit the game-winning three-pointer in Dallas.

Chauncey Billups will be Chauncey Billups. Poised, prepared, and intent on taking down the Lake-show next year. He'll do that by utilizing his strengths, which include experience, defense, and clutch shooting. He has the ability to stay cool in pressure-packed circumstances, but also is able to pump his teammates up in late game situations. If it ever comes down to the wire between LA and Denver next season, look for Billups to step up and come up big for his team.

So Kobe, just know that next year won't be a stroll in the park. Teams will be watching your every move. Teams will be waiting for that first game. Ready to get their revenge on you and your Lakers.


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