The third Title
Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey, U.S.
The road to the Finals would prove a lot tougher than the record run the Lakers had enjoyed the previous year. While the Lakers swept the Blazers and defeated the Spurs 4–1 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Lakers did not have a home-court advantage against the Sacramento Kings. The series would stretch to seven games, the first time this had happened to the Lakers since the 2000 Western Conference Finals. However, the Lakers were able to beat their division rivals and make their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance. In the 2002 Finals, against the New Jersey Nets, Bryant averaged 26.8 points, 51.4% shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game, which included scoring a quarter of the team's points. At age 23, Bryant became the youngest player to win three championships. Bryant's play was notable and praised for his performance in the fourth quarter of games, specifically the last two rounds of the playoffs. This cemented Bryant's reputation as a "clutch player".