VIDEO: Closer look at Kobe’s biggest moments against the Celtics
Two decades wearing just one uniform. All those years and games and shots and heroics and histrionics in the purple and gold of the team he grew up idolizing.
Is it even possible to envision Kobe Bryant as anything but an L.A. Laker?
Well, close your eyes, clear you mind and try to think of Bryant as a — gulp! — Boston Celtic.
After a sizzling pre-draft workout and an impressive interview that included none other than the legendary team president Red Auerbach, the Celtics gave serious consideration to taking the high school phenom out of Lower Merion, Pa. back in 1996. But head coach M.L. Carr eventually opted for Antoine Walker or history could have been completely different.
Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com details the conversations and how the choice was made in a story that even surprised Kobe:
“That’s like the coolest thing I’ve ever heard, dude, because I grew up watching Red! You know what I’m saying? I read books about Red.
“I’ve never even known that he knew of my existence!”
Never mind that he calls the 2010 win over the hated Celtics the favorite of his five championships and that he even had trouble putting on the shamrock green practice gear of the Celtics for the workout way back then. Bryant said if Boston had drafted him, he’d have spent the past two decades trying to emulate the other side of the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry:
“I would’ve tried to carry on Bird’s legacy,” Bryant says without hesitation. “Absolutely. I would’ve done it with a tremendous amount of pride and honor.”
Bryant’s reverence toward Bird might come as a surprise to some, given the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, but Bryant says he studied Bird just as much as he did Magic and Jordan.
“Timing. Reading situations. Tenacity with his teammates,” Bryant says. “I’ve really studied. That’s like the holy trinity for me — Bird, Michael and Magic. I really watched everything about them.”
And of Bird, Bryant says, “You have no idea how much I’ve studied this guy. Oh, man.”