If you’re reading this Kobe Bryant story, you likely already know how competitive the Los Angeles Lakers legend was throughout his iconic NBA career. He wanted to win as often as he could and worked extremely hard to have all the success he did.
However, there were, of course, times when he fell short. In fact, during the 2008 playoffs, Bryant and the Lakers just barely missed out on winning an NBA championship as they lost to the Boston Celtics in six games.
That shortcoming motivated Bryant for the next couple of seasons, though, and not long after the series ended, the future Hall of Famer tore a Paul Pierce picture out of a newspaper and then said one word to foreshadow the revenge he eventually got on the Celtics great.
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers lost to the Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals
After seeing the Lakers part ways with Shaquille O’Neal in 2004, Bryant put in a lot of work to prove he could win championships without Shaq.
In 2007-08, it looked like he was finally going to show the world he could, in fact, do that, as the Lake Show acquired big man Paul Gasol during the regular season. The team then finished 57-25 that year and earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
LA subsequently ran through its competition in the West during the playoffs. Kobe and company swept the Denver Nuggets in the first round, beat the Utah Jazz in six games in the conference semis, and then bested the San Antonio Spurs in five games in the Western Conference Finals.
Bryant, of course, put on a show during the series, averaging 25.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.7 steals, but Pierce, Garnett, and Allen were too much. As mentioned earlier, the Celtics clinched the series in six games to win the title.
But the Mamba didn’t just quit and give up hope.
The Lakers legend tore out a picture of Paul Pierce and used 1 word to foreshadow his revenge
After losing in the Finals, Bryant played in the Olympics later that summer. And while inside the players’ lounge, Bryant ran into members of the women’s Team USA squad, including WNBA legend Sue Bird.
“He came in, and we were drinking a little wine, playing some Spades, just chilling, and he came in, sat down, poured himself a glass, and he was kind of reading a paper,” Bird said on the Aug. 20, 2020 episode of The Old Man and the Three podcast. “… So, he opens up the paper, and there’s this article about [the Finals], and there’s a picture of Paul Pierce.”
What Bryant did next was the most Mamba thing ever.
“We look over, and he’s tearing out the picture of Paul Pierce,” she added. “And he cuts it out, and he folds it up, and he puts it in his pocket. And we’re all looking at him, like, ‘What’s going on?’”
Bryant then said one word that foreshadowed future events: “motivation.”
Bird’s Kobe story didn’t end there. She said he then chugged two glasses of wine before looking at them and essentially saying, “Now, I’m one ahead of you guys.”
But that drinking contest wasn’t the only thing Bryant went on to win. He used that “motivation” to get revenge.
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers got revenge on Paul Pierce and the Celtics
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers went back to the NBA Finals in 2009, and they ended up winning the title by beating the Orlando Magic in five games.
In 2010, however, they went to the series for a third consecutive year, and they faced Pierce and the Celtics again.
The 2010 NBA Finals were a back-and-forth affair, and the series eventually went to seven games. In the final contest, though, Bryant got that revenge that was two years in the making; the Lakers beat the Celtics 83-79. The win marked his fifth championship and his second Finals MVP, as he averaged 28.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 3.9 assists.
The win cemented Bryant’s legacy as one of the greatest of all time. But it also helped him avenge a devastating loss from two seasons prior, as he accomplished a plan that he hatched at the 2008 Olympics and used that “motivation” to come out on top.
That fifth title was more than just a legacy booster for Bryant; it helped him and the Lakers get even with their archrivals.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference