ORLANDO, Fla. - His signature.

That's all this game lacked now.

Just Kobe Bryant's name written - spectacularly, no less - one final time in this imperfectly perfect season.

So, with the Lakers' 99-86 victory waning Sunday and the franchise's 15th NBA title secured, Bryant went hunting for his signature shot.

This was the Lakers' championship, but this was Bryant's crown. This was his team - repeat, his team - like never before, his greatest triumph about to come free of Shaq's shackles.

His signature. That's all that remained.

But Bryant missed a three-pointer, the darn thing teasing him by rimming out with barely four minutes left. Then he missed another, Bryant unable to make the wildly overmatched J.J. Redick his victim.

On the Lakers' next possession, the two-minute mark looming, Bryant took Redick off the dribble, pulled up - and banked in a nine-footer.

A bank shot? From nine feet? Hardly fitting, yet completely appropriate. A mundane, old-school bank shot for the final points of his most crowning season yet.

"He's grown. He's grown up," teammate Derek Fisher said. "He's doing everything that we could ever ask him to do in terms of leading the team . . . trying to be the type of guy that guys will follow as opposed to just dominating performances by himself."

The Lakers won Sunday behind Bryant's 30 points first, but also behind Lamar Odom's 17 points and Pau Gasol's double-double and Trevor Ariza's 11-point second quarter.

They won as a group, a "family" being the word so many of them used afterward. But there's no question this march was about one man, and it wasn't coach Phil Jackson, who only made NBA history Sunday.

Bryant established something greater than a record. He established himself, no small measure for a player whose career has been played in competition with Michael Jordan, even though Jordan hasn't scored a basket in years.

It has been just about Bryant from the start, and yet it never has been only about Bryant. There always has been the Jordan comparison. More recently, there have been the Shaquille O'Neal questions. More recently still: Kobe or LeBron?

So Bryant finally was alone Sunday, surrounded by family - his basketball one and his real-life one - but he was as singular as the MVP trophy they presented to him following the game.

"It feels like I'm dreaming right now," he said. "I can't believe this moment is here."

For years, Bryant mostly dodged the questions about the significance of winning without O'Neal, dismissing the theory he could validate his career only by claiming another title minus Shaq.

Well, turns out all that was just another pump fake from the master of the move. Bryant, calling the subject "idiotic criticism," finally admitted that, yeah, that's what this was all about for him.



Kobe haters, this isn't your day. Gonzo, D2.