Wednesday will be a big night for Kobe Bryant, his last game in Boston.
Given the state of the Lakers (not good) and Celtics (improving but not championship-caliber), it wasn’t surprising that everybody wanted to talk about the past.
Bryant actually spent more time dwelling on the loss to Boston in the 2008 Finals than anything else.
“For the second half of my career, it’s been the most important piece. When we lost in 2008, that turned [everything],” Bryant said Wednesday, adding that he kept telling himself, “I can’t go through this [again].”
The Lakers beat Boston in the 2010 Finals but Bryant would remember 2008 first, he said.
“Because the loss led to the win,” he said. “And I say that in the most beautiful way possible. It helped me find the best version of myself.”
Bryant said that before the 2007-08 season, he felt two emotions when the Celtics added Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to team up with Paul Pierce. One was irritation -- the Lakers hadn’t made any moves like that (Pau Gasol was still several months from leaving Memphis) and the other was excitement.
“I might have an opportunity to kind of live out this childhood dream of the Lakers and the Celtics,” he recalled. “And then when you’re in that situation, especially in 2010, it was like, do you want to be the player years from now where it’s like, the Lakers lost twice to the Celtics? I don’t want to be that guy. It was a lot of pressure to be able to not have that happen.”
There was some talk of the Lakers’ victory in 2010, to be sure. Bryant has called it the best championship of the five he won, revenge playing a big factor.
But he revealed a different angle Wednesday, what he claimed was a lighter side after the Lakers lost Game 5 in Boston, 92-86.
“The most beautiful memory I have actually took place in this locker room right back here, when we went down, 3-2,” Bryant said, motioning behind him. “We came in the locker room and we sat there and we were all just kind of like, ‘What the hell just happened? This can’t be happening again.’
“And then I found the humor in it and I just started laughing. Then Derek [Fisher] looked at me and D-Fish started laughing. The guys, Shannon [Brown], they were kind of looking at us like, ‘What the hell is wrong here? It’s one game from losing.’
“I said, ‘Guys, listen man, first of all, they kicked our butt and that’s pretty funny. And secondly, if we started the season and they told us that all we had to do was go home and win two games to be NBA champions, would you take that deal? All we have to do is go home and win two games.”
They did, thumping the Celtics in Game 6, 89-67, and outlasting them in Game 7, 83-79.