Lakers' Kobe Bryant relishes his last visit to Boston's green house and a date with the Celtics

Lakers' Kobe Bryant relishes his last visit to Boston's green house and a date with the Celtics
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers celebrates moments after the Lakers' Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Of all the revelations, all the horrors that come with blasphemy and indignity, Kobe Bryant saved one of his biggest surprises for his last game in Boston.

He likes green.


"It's actually my favorite color," he said, and a million Lakers fans winced, not to mention Jerry West, who won't even wear green underwear because of the hated Celtics.

"It's been my favorite color forever," Bryant continued. "I've always loved it. It's a little weird, isn't it?"

Everything in the past month has been a bit weird.

Wednesday marks 31 days since Bryant declared his end-of-season retirement. There have been some polite celebrations at arenas, more intensely fanatical ones, some surprise booing (step forward, San Antonio) and, above all, more losing.

The Lakers are 3-14 since Bryant acknowledged publicly his 37-year-old body couldn't handle another season after this one. He's had moments to savor and moments of struggle since then. Same for the young Lakers.

The only positioning to be determined between now and April 13 is for ping-pong balls, not home-court advantage. At least there's Lakers-Celtics to save another night in a dreary season. If nothing else, it will be entertaining to see how Bryant is received.

There is case precedent, if anyone wanted to go back that far: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had more run-ins with the Celtics than Bryant but was given a 95-second standing ovation when he played his last game at Boston Garden in December 1988.

Celtics president Red Auerbach threw aside any rancor and said of Abdul-Jabbar, "How can I get mad at him now?" Then he handed him a framed slab of the parquet floor.

Bryant is surely a villain here. He was unable to stop the landslide in the 2008 NBA Finals — 131-92, Boston, in the series-clinching Game 6 — and if part of Celtics fans' joy was beating the Lakers, another part was beating Bryant.

The Garden crowd derisively chanted "Where is Kobe?" in the fourth quarter as the lead hovered near 30 points. He spoke in short, clipped sentences after the game. It was the second-largest point differential in NBA Finals history.

"Just upset more than anything," Bryant said, the frustration obvious in his posture. "But I'm proud of the way that we performed all year. At the same time, understand that second place just means you're the first loser."

Some Celtics fans threw objects at the Lakers team bus as it tried to leave the Garden. Others tried to rock it.

It would be two more years before Bryant faced Boston in the Finals. It went the full distance.

The 2010 Game 7 was a slow-speed chase from the start. The Lakers tried to match the Celtics' physical, almost bullying style, and managed to do it.


Pau Gasol, known more for his finesse than hardiness, had 19 points and 18 rebounds. Ron Artest, as he was called then, made a key three-pointer with 1:01 left. He later kept exclaiming in wonderment, "Kobe passed me the ball!"

Kobe Bryant points and yells after a play against the Hornets in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 28.
Kobe Bryant points and yells after a play against the Hornets in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 28. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

Sasha Vujacic made two big free throws with 11 seconds left for a four-point cushion. Bryant was soon jumping on the scorer's table with purple and gold confetti falling around him.

"This one's by far the sweetest," Bryant said in front of a still-standing Staples Center crowd.

The Lakers had prevailed, 83-79, even though Bryant made only six of 24 shots. Earlier this week, he seemed more amazed than triumphant when reflecting on his fifth and final championship.

"I don't know how we won it," he said. "We had a feeling in the huddle that we were going to win it. We just had no idea how. We just kept chipping away and chipping away and chipping away and all of the sudden we found ourselves in the game with a chance to kind of steal it."

He was selected the Finals MVP despite his way-off-target Game 7. In his defense, he averaged 28.6 points, eight rebounds and 3.9 assists in the series.

"They caused a lot of problems for me" in Game 7, Bryant said Tuesday. "You've got to figure out some kind of way to have an imprint on the game and then if the game is close and you have a chance to make a big shot, then it's your responsibility to make one. Fortunately, I was able to make a nice pull-up jumper and give us a little cushion. But it was a tough game."

The present isn't quite as sharp for the franchises, especially the Lakers. It might be a while before a basketball parade in either downtown.

The Celtics (18-13) have the edge in the win-loss column and are tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference. The Lakers are an unfathomable 5-27 and last in the West.

Bryant made a point of saying his two daughters had never been to Boston. They'll make the trip this time, along with his wife. There's a colorful reason.

"I'm looking forward to them getting a chance to see the city a little bit. And then to experience the green," Bryant said. "It's just a different green. I want them to be able to see it."



When: Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. PST.

Where: TD Garden.

On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.

Records: Lakers 5-27; Celtics 18-13.

Record vs. Celtics (2014-15): 1-1.

Update: Boston has won four consecutive games, its longest streak this season. Celtics guard Marcus Smart, drafted one spot before Julius Randle in 2014, recently returned from an 18-game absence because of a knee injury. He is averaging 9.4 points and three assists. Celtic point guard Isaiah Thomas is averaging 20.7 points and 6.8 assists.

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan