The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are bitter rivals that date back to the days of the Bill Russell-led Celtics teams squaring off against Jerry West and the Lakers. The most recent incarnation saw Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol lead the Lakers against the Celtics Big 3 of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.
With decades of hatred between the two franchises, there is no love lost on either side. Nonetheless, Kobe actually credits a Celtics legend for all that he taught him about leadership. Following the Lakers’ 107-100 loss to Boston on Sunday night, Bryant talked about what Bill Russell has meant to his career.
Kobe mentioned how the great center helped him understand how to deal with teammates and what it takes to get everyone on the same page, via L.A. Daily News’ Mark Medina.
Kobe praised Bill Russell's mentorship on how to manage his teammates and understanding team dynamics
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 4, 2016
Kobe is well-known for being extremely tough on teammates and eventually had to learn how to bring them closer together and get the most out of them. There are very few who were better at that than Russell who not only was a leader for those Celtics teams but was also a player/coach.
After the Lakers defeated the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals, Kobe Bryant was rewarded the first ever Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP award. Kobe guided the Lakers to a Game 7 victory at Staples Center, and he considers that one of the most important wins of his career.
Sunday night, sadly, marked the last time Bryant faced the Celtics. Kobe looked like his old self despite the loss as he tallied up 34 points including four three-pointers. Still, the Lakers could not complete the comeback in the final seconds, and late three-point miss by Bryant all but sealed the win for the Celtics.