In the spring of 2009, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers were on a crusade to win their first NBA championship since 2002.
For Bryant, it was personal, as he had to prove he could win it all as “the man” without the presence of Shaquille O’Neal.
In the Western Conference Finals, L.A. faced a very stiff challenge from Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets. They played the Purple and Gold to a standstill for more than four games until Bryant and company pulled away in the fourth quarter of Game 5 for a 103-94 win.
The series returned to Colorado for Game 6, and the Nuggets hoped to treat their home fans to another win, which would’ve sent things back to Southern California for a winner-take-all game 7.
Instead, Bryant treated the fans at the Pepsi Center to a thrashing of their own squad.
He powered the Lakers through a late second-quarter run to take control of the contest, and he asserted himself again early in the fourth quarter to put it out of reach.
The Black Mamba finished with 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting and 9-of-9 from the free throw line, to go along with 10 assists.
The Lakers’ 119-92 win sent them back to the NBA Finals, where they would defeat the Orlando Magic in five games for their 15th world title and their fourth of the Bryant era.