DAR Sports: Ranking Kobe Bryant's NBA Finals Performances

By @TrueGodImmortal

When we talk about the NBA greatest of the last 25 years, three names all come to mind and are heavily debated. Those names are Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant. We took a look at Jordan and his Finals wins, LeBron and his Finals appearances and wins, and today, we have to take a look at Kobe and his Finals appearances, which were mostly wins. With a Finals record of 5-2, Kobe is definitely hailed as one of the greatest players of our time, and rightfully so. What was his worst Finals performance? What was his best? Let's take a look at the 7 trips Kobe had to the NBA Finals.

7. 2004 NBA Finals
(vs Detroit Pistons, 22.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.8 SPG)

-The worst Finals performance from Kobe. He shot 38% from the field. 17% from three. Kobe looked bad out there when it mattered lost and this is a huge blip on his record. It still doesn't change his stature as a legend, but Kobe could get nothing going in this series against one of the greatest defenses ever. The only game where Kobe seemed to show up was the game 2 win, as the Lakers pulled out one win in the entire series. Love or hate Kobe, this series is the only true blip on his Finals record.

6. 2008 NBA Finals
(vs Boston Celtics, 25.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.7 SPG)

-This wasn't a bad performance by Kobe overall, it just pales in comparison to the more effective appearances where he won in a much better fashion. This was a hard fought loss where his team just didn't seem to have enough to pull it off. The Celtics had homecourt advantage and they were the best team in the league this year. The Lakers were slightly outmatched, but Kobe didn't stop fighting. After a solid game 2 that still resulted in a Lakers loss, all hope seemed lost. A 12 for 20 shooting night for Kobe propelled the Lakers to a victory in game 3, but it was the one sided game in game 6 that drove home that this wasn't the year for Kobe, who had won regular season MVP, but wouldn't get another ring.

5. 2000 NBA Finals
(vs Indiana Pacers, 15.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 BPG)

-You may feel like this is lower than it should be, but Kobe was much more of a Robin to Shaq as Batman than he was an equal in this NBA Finals. He was vital in a major way, but this series centered much more on Shaq, and that's why they won a championship. However, Kobe would step up when need be and deliver big performances on the big stage. Game 4 was the game that showed you what Kobe had, and a result, a star was born. For that alone, this Finals performance avoids the bottom two spots, which of course would have to go the losses.

4. 2001 NBA Finals
(vs Philadelphia 76ers, 24.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 5.8 APG)

-These Finals are interesting. It was Kobe vs Iverson. Mutumbo vs Shaq. Nothing would have been better than a 7 game series with all of these guys in their prime. Mutumbo wasn't himself and Iverson cant do it alone, so the Sixers lost in 5. However, two big reasons for that are simple: Shaq and Kobe. Kobe had now reached the point where he was close to the same level as the elite players and his performances in games 2 and 3 played a big part in the Lakers winning their second championship.

3. 2010 NBA Finals
(vs Boston Celtics, 28.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 2.1 SPG, NBA Finals MVP)

-This is a strange pick for me. It isn't as memorable as some of the other performances to me, but it was a big time performance that helped secure the win for the Lakers in a tough 7 game series. Kobe was far from perfect, as he had a rough game 2, and his inefficiency was a slight issue, but he was the central reason why they won. His work in game 7 is honestly the most slept on part of his performance. His shot wasn't falling, but he would crash the boards finish with 23 points and 15 rebounds, a solid stat line in a crucial game 7. Still, in terms of Kobe and the Finals, this is one of the most crucial series of his career and it has to be top three, as he won his 5th and final ring.... and did it without Shaq... AGAIN.

2. 2002 NBA Finals
(vs New Jersey Nets, 26.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.5 SPG)

-The final title in their 3npeat is iconic. First off, it was a dominant performance all around, as the Lakers swept the Nets in convincing fashion, and although Shaq won Finals MVP, Kobe would have been as deserving, which speaks to his ability and his defense. He shot very well from the field with over 51% shooting and 54% from three, and took over in game 3 to give the Lakers a three point lead and win. It was a short series, so there isn't much to work with, but Kobe was magnificent for the most part in this series and when we look at his Finals runs, this one is underrated.

1. 2009 NBA Finals
(vs Orlando Magic, 32.4 PPG, 5.6 APG, 7.4 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG)

-Though this isn't the most efficient Kobe performance in the playoffs or the Finals, it is his best overall body of work and performance on the biggest stage. There was no generational talent like Shaq there to help against a Dwight Howard, but Pau Gasol was a big contributor as expected. Kobe would execute big down the stretch, kicking off the Finals with a classic 40 point and 8 assist night in game 1 to set the tone for the series. The rest of the series would be interesting, as we witnessed Orlando steal a game and nearly steal another before the Lakers closed it out in 5 to win Kobe's 4th NBA Championship. So many people had been saying that Kobe couldn't get it done without Shaq, but this is the series that proved the doubters wrong and gave him vindication.



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