For the first time, he has won an NBA Finals as a leading man.
And yet, it also is as if he is running in place.
Unlike Shaquille O'Neal, who rode Dwyane Wade's coattails in 2006, Kobe won this appearance in the Finals from the top of the scoring column.
But when Kobe shared in those previous three championships with the Lakers, he was the supporting player, with Shaq MVP of the Finals in 2000, '01 and '02.
And there still is that nagging 6-4 championship deficit in the ever-present judgments against Michael Jordan.
Perhaps it would feel different if this championship came in a rematch against the Celtics. Beating Boston always counts for extra.
Perhaps it would come off as loftier if it came against LeBron, who actually accomplished more against the Magic in his six games in the Eastern Conference finals than Kobe did in the five games of the Finals.
This was more like Federer finally winning Roland Garros with Nadal already eliminated.
It was Padraig Harrington winning last year's British Open and PGA Championship in the absence of Tiger.
It was Carlos Sastre winning the 2008 Tour with Lance Armstrong yet to unretire.
Beating opponents in blue pinstripes only carries so much NBA cache. Can greatness truly come on a court that features Stuff the Magic Dragon during timeouts?
Kobe, although certainly more complete for the experience, just as was the case last summer in Beijing, finds his stature at another level, but his ranking essentially where it stood before these grueling eight weeks of postseason:
The angry-man face over these past two weeks?
Please. That merely was for public consumption. He was plenty playful behind the scenes, joking with the likes of Rafer Alston and Mickael Pietrus in the Amway Arena corridors.
Even in his absence, Shaq was everywhere during these Finals, from his unremitting Tweets about Kobe, to trade speculation that had O'Neal's potential move to LeBron's side as Sunday's NBA story No. 1A.
"Congratualtions kobe, u deserve it," came Sunday's ultimate Shaq tweet. "You played great . Enjoy it my man enjoy it. And I know what yur sayin rt now 'Shaq how my ass taste' "
Winning without Shaq meant plenty.
"I just don't have to hear that idiotic criticism any more," Bryant savored in the wake Sunday's victory. "That's the biggest thing.
"It's just silly. I mean every team has a dynamic duo. I think it's a shame, but it is what it is. I wasn't going to try to argue about it. It's accept the challenge and try to prove 'em wrong.
"It was annoying, it was like Chinese water torture."
As for his "It's not about me" rhetoric?
This was as much about Kobe as last year's Finals were about Kevin Garnett's title quest, only without the prepackaged scream and without the 39-point final margin in the series' deciding game.
"This," Bryant acknowledged, "means everything.
"I feel like I'm dreaming right now."
Sunday's individual MVP hardware was merely for the fleeting five-game Finals, but might as well have been for the entire postseason.
At every turn, when the Lakers needed the ultimate payoff, Kobe was there to cash in.
There were 38 points in Game 4 of the opening round in Utah, when the Jazz could have moved into a 2-2 tie.
There were 40 in Game 2 of the second round, when there otherwise could have been an 0-2 deficit heading to Houston.
Against Denver, there were 41 points when the Western Conference finals stood tied 1-1.
And in Sunday's 99-86 series-clinching victory, 30 points, six rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots.
He stood in for the fight, for the challenges.
Just as he has stood solely as a Laker.
PBT: The Spurs erased an 18-point deficit and won in OT to open up a 3-0 series lead on Memphis.
A Tinseltown NBA finals
Take a visual tour of the celebration of the Lakers’ NBA championship, plus images from the five-game win over the Magic.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
DPS: Is it really all about the rings?
DPS: Dan Patrick talks about Phil Jackson's comments about starting a team with Bill Russell now because of his championships and brings up the great question of, if it's all about championships, how come we don't talk about guys like Sam Jones, Frank Ramsey or John Havlicek who all have multiple rings?
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