As the clock wound down, Kobe Bryant sprinted after the ball joyously flung by Lamar Odom. The Lakers had edged out the Boston Celtics to pick up their 16th NBA championship following a nerve wracking 83-79 final at the Staples Center.
Often criticized for being too selfish, Bryant overcame a terrible shooting night by playing the facilitator and walking away with his second Finals MVP award. The win gives him a ring for every finger on one hand.
With the Lakers playing through injuries and overcoming the stiff Celtics defense, the newest entry in the Staples Center rafters will hold a special place in Bryant’s heart as it was won against the very same opponent that beat them in ’98. As Kobe puts it, “Gives me one ring more than Shaq. This one is by far the sweetest, because it’s (the Celtics),” Bryant said after the Lakers beat Boston for the first time in a Game 7. “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.”
They sure did, with R on Artest scoring 20, along with 5 steals and 5 rebounds. Artest will be remembered for providing the much needed offense in the first half, keeping the Lakers in the game despite shooting a horrendous 28% for the half. Gasol overcame a terrible first half to make some crucial baskets down the stretch, coupled with 18 rebounds for the game. The win also gave Phil Jackson his 11th win as a coach, tying Bill Russell for the most ever championships in the NBA.
The Zen master, as he is called, is known to win his NBA titles in bunches of three and that may just tempt him to come back next year for one final hurray before he bids farewell to basketball for retirement. Credit must be given to the Celtics for putting up such a good fight. Often criticized for being “too old” or “too slow,” the Celtics overcame Wayde and the Heat, Lebron and the Cavs, and Dwight and the Magic before finally running into Kobe and his Lakers.
The playoffs also saw Rojon Rondo develop into one of the league’s premier point guards. Both teams head into the off-season with contrasting fortunes. Phil Jackson and the Lakers may be heading into a budding dynasty with most of their core players locked into long term contracts. The Celtics, on the other hand, have to deal with Ray Allen’s impending free agency and the possibility of Rasheed Wallace and Doc Rivers not returning to the garden, with Wallace having thoughts of quitting the game.
Fifa World Cup :
The biggest sporting event on the planet- 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa – got underway on June 11 at Soccer City, Johannesburg with the host nation playing against Mexico.
Siphiwe Tshabalala’s spectacular strike opened the tally for the 19th FIFA world cup, but South Africa conceded an easy equalizer to Mexico and had to settle for a draw.
France and Uruguay played a goalless draw under the influence of buzzing vuvuzelas horns. Uruguay’s Nicolás Lodeiro became the first player to be red-carded at the World Cup, but the French lacked the decisive punch to take advantage of the 10-men opposition.
In Group B, South Korea started brightly with a strong performance against Greece with their captain, Park Ji-Sung, sealing the game at 2-0. One of the tournament favourites and coached by the legendary Diego Maradona, Argentina defeated Nigeria by a narrow margin of 1-0 at the Ellis Park Stadium (Johannesburg).
2009 FIFA World Player of the year, Lionel Messi made trademark runs to bamboozle the Nigerian defense, showcasing his talent at the world stage.
In Group C, England came into the World Cup with a strong qualifying campaign. Replacing the injured Rio Ferdinand as captain, Steven Gerard drew first blood against USA in the 4th minute with an exquisite finish, but a howler from the English goalkeeper, Robert Green, ended the game in a draw.
In Group D, Germany demolished Australia. To add salt to their wounds, the Aussies lost their influential captain, Tim Cahill, to a harsh red card. In the other group game, Ghana left it late against Serbia to win in the 85th minute through a penalty kick.
In Group E, Japan’s gritty performance overwhelmed the toothless Cameroon, as they registered their first ever win outside their own country. Group E favourites, Netherlands, struggled to unlock the Danish defence without their influential winger, Arjen Robben, until the 46th minute when an unfortunate own goal broke the deadlock. The Dutch won 2-0 with Dirk Kuyt’s first goal of the World Cup.
Group F saw a stale Italian performance against Paraguay in a game that ended 1-1. New Zealand and Slovakia shared the same score line in the other Group F game.
In Group G, the most successful country in World Cup history, Brazil, found it hard to break the North Korean’s defence. Eventually, Maicon’s bullet found the goalkeeper wanting and Robinho’s vision was finished in style by Elano to give Brazil a two goal lead. There was late drama, but the Samba Kings eventually won 2-1. In the other Group G game, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal drew against Ivory Coast in a goalless game.
Group H saw the biggest upset of the World Cup yet. The European Champions, Spain, could not break the Swiss defensive wall and were caught on counter attack. With almost 70% possession, it was a frustrating night for the Spaniards as they lost 1-0.Chile impressed everyone with their attacking flair in their opening game against Honduras to win the other group H game 1-0. The opening round has been a low scoring affair with the teams very cautious to start their journey. The vuvuzela’s continue to cause consternation, with France’s Patrice Evra complaining of being waken at 6 AM.
Closer to home:
The raptors continue their pre-draft work outs while adding P.J Carlesimo to their coaching staff.
The Jays management decided to shake things up before the weekend series with the Giants, signing infielder Nick Green to a Major League contract, while optioning Mike McCoy to Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Leafs name Dion Phaneuf the new team captain while adding Claude Loiselle to the management team.
On a side note: Robert Green’s stunning miss on a routine shot that enabled the US to tie the score at 1-1 had a Waterloo connection. The British media blame Toronto based model Elizabeth Minnet for the miss. Minnet, a UW alumni with a major in economics dated Green until a month ago. While his manager was quick to dismiss her as the reason behind his lapse in concentration, Minnet and UW are sure enjoying this 15 minute of fame.