Many of Kobe Bryant’s most defining moments involved Boston, and whether they were wins or losses, there’s no shortage of classic Bryant moments connected to the Celtics. Here are some of the most memorable:
■ The 2010 NBA Finals — Despite the fact that a hobbled Boston team held a double-digit, second-half lead in Game 7, Bryant and the Lakers managed to garner a small measure of revenge after losing to Boston two years before. Bryant averaged 28.6 points, 8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game — that included 23 points and 15 rebounds in Game 7 — on the way to winning Finals MVP.
Bryant later said one of the things that fueled him were two songs he heard frequently in Boston when the Celtics beat the Lakers in the 2008 Finals.
“I remember when we were losing [in Game 6 in 2008], they played that Journey song [“Don’t Stop Believin’ ”] and the whole arena started singing that song, and I hated that damn song for two years. Seriously,’’ Bryant told ESPN.
“But I listened to that song every single day because it just reminded me of that feeling. Same thing with the Dropkick Murphys’ [“I’m Shipping Up to Boston”]. I’m listening to Dropkick Murphys all the time just because I want to remember that feeling.’’
■ The 2008 NBA Finals — The Celtics got the better of Bryant and the Lakers, but it wasn’t on him. He averaged 25.7 points, 5 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per contest in the six-game series. He later said that series was the “turning point” in his career in terms of being a leader.
■ His pre-draft tryout with Boston in 1996 — Ah, what might have been. Bryant was invited to workout at Brandeis by the Celtics’ braintrust, and in this ESPN feature, he says while he grew up a Lakers fan, he was ready to play in Boston. But it wasn’t easy to put on the jersey.
“Dude, that was the freakiest [stuff] I’ve ever [done],” Bryant said. “I don’t know if it’s the mythology of the Celtic green or whatever, but they bring out the practice gear and you open it up and the shorts are there and it’s like the green glows. It’s like a different kind of a green.
“I’m looking at it like, ‘Do I really have to put this on? I’m comfortable wearing the [stuff] that I have.’ But I quickly moved past that, man. It’s like, ‘I’m quickly about to become a professional.’ If anything, I understand the history of this franchise and this franchise has done a lot of amazing stuff. So I was quickly able to move by that.”
Boston moved up in the draft that year and took Antoine Walker sixth overall, while Charlotte drafted Bryant at No. 13 and traded him to the Lakers.
■ Jan. 31, 2010 — In a game that turned out to be a preview of that year’s Finals, Bryant and the Lakers took a narrow 90-89 win at TD Garden. Although he ended up with a pedestrian (for him) 19 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists, Bryant delivered the winner with seven seconds left. It was the only game-winner he made against the Celtics.
■ Dec. 30, 2015 — It was his last game on Causeway Street. As the final moments of a Los Angeles upset ticked down, the Garden erupted with a “Ko-Be! Ko-Be!” chant. He got a piece of the parquet floor before the game, and afterward, he paid tribute to the rivalry, and spelled out what it meant to him to play in Boston.
“I grew up a historian of the game, understanding Boston’s players,” he said. “This place was always special to me.”
Follow Christopher Price @cpriceglobe.