LOS ANGELES – Purple and gold confetti raining down upon him, Kobe Bryant hopped up on the scorer’s table Thursday night, shook his fists and extended five fingers.

When he hopped down, Boston’s legendary Hall of Fame center, Bill Russell, was waiting to shake his hand.

A Game 7 classic, and this time it finally went the Lakers’ way.

Beating Boston for the first time in a Game 7, the Lakers came up champions again after trailing in the last quarter of the last game of their season.

Kobe Bryant, the finals MVP, scored 23 points despite 6-of-24 shooting and the Lakers won their 16th NBA championship, dramatically rallying from a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 83-79 in Game 7 of the NBA finals.

Bryant earned his fifth title with the Lakers, who repeated as NBA champions for the first time since winning three straight from 2000-02.

“This one is by far the sweetest because it’s them,” Bryant said. “This was the hardest one by far. I wanted it so bad, and sometimes when you want it so bad, it slips away from you. My guys picked me up.”

Ron Artest added 20 points for the Lakers, who shot terribly while trailing for most of the first 3½ quarters. Yet they reclaimed the lead midway through the fourth and hung on with big shots from Pau Gasol and Artest.

“Well, first of all I want to thank everybody in my hood,” Artest said in an ABC interview right after the game. “I definitely want to thank my doctors my psychiatrist, she really helped me relax a lot.”

With their fifth title in 11 seasons, the Lakers moved one championship behind Boston’s 17 banners for the overall NBA lead.

Amid the confetti and streamers pouring down after the final buzzer, Magic Johnson rushed the court to congratulate Bryant, who now has the same number of titles, and to hug Artest, the only new addition to the Lakers’ championship roster from last season.

Artest has been a liability for much of the postseason, but the former head case came up with a remarkable game on the Lakers’ biggest night, playing sturdy defense along with his scoring.

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, but Boston flopped in two chances to clinch the series in Los Angeles after winning Game 5 back home.

“Listen, give the Lakers credit,” Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said.

“They were terrific.”

Rivers knows changes are coming, saying afterward that the ’10-11 Celtics will be different than the ’09-10 team.

“We were the tightest, most emotional, crazy group I’ve ever been around in my life,” Rivers said, adding that he’ll wait a while before deciding on his oft-speculated future.

He called this team “crazy close” and throughout the playoffs, the Celtics only got closer. Down by 14 in their first playoff game against Miami, they won that night and rode that instant burst of confidence not only past the Heat, but through Cleveland and Orlando in the next two rounds.

The Celtics were a .500 team for the final two-thirds of the season, prompting many to wonder if they could turn it back on for the playoffs.

That question was answered long ago. Yes they could — and with one or two more stops on Thursday they would have won an 18th title.

“There’s a lot of crying in that locker room,” Rivers said. “A lot of people who care. I don’t think there was a dry eye. A lot of hugs, a lot of people feeling awful. That’s a good thing. Showed a lot of people cared.”

After three quarters of mostly terrible offense, the Lakers made it 61-61 on Artest’s three-point play with 7:29 left. Bryant’s free throws 1:30 later gave the Lakers their first lead of the second half, and the Lakers went up by five points before Bryant and Sasha Vujacic hit free throws in the final seconds to keep Los Angeles ahead.