Over three seasons, these two teams met in the NBA Finals twice with the Celtics winning it all in 2008 and the Lakers getting their revenge in 2010. And while it seems like many of today’s rivalries have an underlying layer of respect, it felt as though these two teams genuinely hated one another.
There was the infamous wheelchair incident with Paul Pierce, which Bryant responded to when he tore his Achilles years later. Then there was the Celtics 39-point domination of the Lakers to seal the 2008 NBA Finals.
Now, nearly 10 years removed from it all, Garnett says that when he was going to get traded in the 2007 NBA offseason, his first choice was to team up with Bryant on the Lakers, according to John Karalis of MassLive:
Garnett says the Warriors and Suns situations just weren’t right for him. He said his first choice was the Lakers, saying “I wanted to link with (Kobe Bryant),” but he says Bryant didn’t answer his call.
Garnett says that Bryant not answering his first or second phone calls was the reason he moved on to the Celtics as he needed to make a decision and didn’t want to do so without asking him first:
“I shouted at Kobe he didn’t pick the line up,” he told podcast hosts Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. “T-Lue (Tyronn Lue) and Kobe were close and he said ‘shoot at him again and see what he on.’ So I shouted again and he didn’t get back, so I had to make a decision.”
This is one of those NBA what-ifs that makes for incredibly interesting conversation. However, with the Lakers trading for Pau Gasol during the 2007-08 NBA season and becoming a perfect fit alongside Bryant, it seems as though things worked out for all parties.
Garnett won his first championship with the Celtics and the Lakers got the next two with an extremely deep roster anchored by Bryant and Gasol.
Garnett likely would have more than just one championship had he been teamed up with Bryant. But Bryant and Gasol were the absolute perfect pair on and off the court, and it’s hard to imagine a version of the Lakers that didn’t include the brotherly duo.