The 2008 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics was the renewal of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. Jerry West and Bill Russell gave way to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who then passed the baton to Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce.
Game 1 of the series was an infamous one as Pierce famously left the game in a wheelchair, with many fearing the worst. Pierce would eventually return to action, however, sparking his team and the crowd as the Celtics would start the series with an emotional win.
Pierce’s wheelchair moment has gone down as a point of contention for Lakers fans ever since. In an appearance on the Jim Rome Podcast, Kobe reminisced about the incident, recallling that he thought Pierce had been seriously injured:
“I’m thinking, man, he must be really, really hurt. Maybe chalk it up to the fact that I’ve been through a lot of injuries before or I’m just stubborn — those injuries don’t really freak me out that too much. I think with a lot of players there’s a certain shock that comes along with injuries and their imagination runs wild and makes them think that it’s worse than what it actually is. Hence the wheelchair or being carried off or whatever.”
Once Pierce made his return however, Kobe’s mood quickly changed:
“I’m thinking, ah, man, he’s on some Willis Reed s*** right now. Here comes the crowd getting all into this type of s***. That’s what I’m thinking. Ah, here we go.”
Kobe’s fears were realized as the Celtics took that game and eventually the series. Of course Kobe would get his revenge two years later when the Lakers beat the Celtics in the 2010 Finals.
Boston fans may look back on that moment as Pierce being heroic in overcoming the injury to lead his team to a win, but for Lakers fans, Pierce in a wheelchair will forever be equally laughable and annoying.
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