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NBA Finals Game 7: LA Lakers win NBA title beating Celtics 83 - 79

NBA Finals Game 7 goes to the Lakers as they defeated the Boston Celtics to win 16th championship.

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Bryant said he had to downplay the magnitude of the rivalry during the series, but he came clean while sitting at the podium with his daughters, Natalia and Gianna.

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"I was just lying to you guys," Bryant said. "When you're in the moment, you have to suppress that ... but you guys know what a student I am of the game. I know every series the Lakers have played in, and I know every Celtics series. I know every statistic. It meant the world to me, but I couldn't focus on that. I had to focus on playing."

And when Bryant was asked what the title means to him personally, he answered without self-censorship: "Just got one more than Shaq. You can take that to the bank. You know how I am. I don't forget anything."

As if anybody could forget, Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant teamed up for three titles from 2000-02, with Shaq winning his fourth in 2006 with Miami. The Lakers' last two belong to Bryant and Pau Gasol, who had 19 points and 18 rebounds after a slow start in Game 7.

Ron Artest added 20 points for the Lakers, who didn't exactly show a champion's poise while making just 21 shots in the first three quarters, even hovering around 50 percent at the free throw line. Los Angeles finished with just 32.5 percent shooting.

Yet the Lakers' defense slowed Rajon Rondo and the Celtics' offense to a trickle in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles reclaimed the lead midway through and hung on with a few more big shots from Gasol, who had nine points in the period, and a remarkable clutch performance by Artest, a first-time champion as the only newcomer to last season's roster.

"I had 20 points, and I still think we did this as a team," said Artest, whose 3-pointer with 1:01 to play was the Lakers' last field goal of the season. "We fought together. This was one of the best games in, I don't even know, man. I don't want to be in a game like this, where the game can go either way. ... I'm just like, OK, what did I get myself into?"

He might be into a budding dynasty, with most of the Lakers' core locked into long-term contracts. With their fifth title in 11 seasons, the Lakers moved one championship behind Boston's 17 titles for the overall NBA lead.

Paul Pierce had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who just couldn't finish the final quarter of a remarkable playoff run after a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. Kevin Garnett added 17 points and Rasheed Wallace had 11 before tiring while starting in place of injured center Kendrick Perkins, but Boston flopped in two chances to clinch the series in Los Angeles after winning Game 5 back home.