Throughout Kobe Bryant’s NBA career, many competitors and opponents have come and gone. As a part of two Los Angeles Lakers’ championship runs, the five championship teams faced many rivals along the way, creating instant classics that’ll last a lifetime.
However, no adversary was more challenging to Bryant than the Boston Celtics. The rivalry that transcends the era of Bryant reached another peak during the late 2000s, as the Lakers and Celtics would face twice in the NBA Finals.
Bryant received the bitter taste of defeat during his first battle with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen topped off by a humiliating 39-point loss to the Celtics at the Boston Garden. Pierce and Bryant would have many duels during their career, but the atmosphere of the NBA Finals could not be matched.
Pierce, who remains the only All-Star in the NBA from the Celtics’ ‘Big 3′, is now partaking in what he says is his final NBA season. Now with the Los Angeles Clippers, Pierce has taken a veteran role with this group, imparting wisdom onto the championship hopeful roster.
The 18-year veteran recently contributed a piece to The Players’ Tribune called “Life Out Loud,” which gives insight into bits and pieces of his NBA career. During the article, Pierce gives a slight jab at Bryant, dating back to their first altercation in the NBA Finals, via Darren Hartwell of NESN.com:
There’s a lot to like here, especially Pierce’s shot at those “spoiled little brat kids” at the Sixers game. But top honors go to Pierce’s jab at Bryant, in which he makes excellent use of a thought bubble to insist Kobe can’t hang with him.
“You can see he has his mouth in his jersey,” Pierce says of Bryant. “He’s easily frustrated. ‘Damn, I can’t guard him.’”
During their overlapping careers, Pierce and Bryant had 26 regular season meetings. Of those 26, Bryant has won 14 and Pierce has won 12. During those contests, Bryant averaged 25.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.6 assists in 37.5 minutes per game. On the other hand, Pierce averaged 22.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in 36.0 minutes per game.
Besides the regular season meetings, these two superstars did have two separate altercations in the NBA Finals. In 13 playoff meetings between the two, Pierce has the edge 7-6. Dating back to 2008, the Celtics won the championship with a 4-2 series victory over the Lakers, while the Lakers exacted their revenge with a 4-3 series win in 2010.
A couple of years ago, Pierce stated that Bryant was one of the five toughest players he ever guarded, with a certain amount of mutual respect between the players.
As Pierce drifts into retirement, both he and Bryant had many countless battles, creating many instant classics between the two historic franchises.