During his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant has had some epic battles with the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs. In the four matchups, Bryant won two of them, but also gave up a 3-1 series lead in the 2006 NBA playoffs.
In his final game against the franchise, Bryant had 17 points, three rebounds and two assists in what appeared to be a home game in Phoenix.
Following the loss, Bryant discussed the love-hate relationship he had with the Suns during the 2006 and 2007 playoffs according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN:
“Yes, they stopped me from getting a championship — twice,” he said. “Damn right I hated them. Absolutely. Raja [Bell] and Steve and all of those good guys. Hated them. No question. But at the same time, I loved them, because they brought the best out of me and my teammates. So the relationship is a love-hate relationship because I hated the fact that they were that good and kept us from winning, but at the same time, I loved how good they were and I knew we had to be better. It’s a love-hate relationship.
In addition, Bryant feels the Suns were a real rivalry to him even though many have mentioned the Sacramento Kings, via Holmes:
“That was a real rivalry to me. The Sacramento thing really wasn’t one because we beat them every time. Phoenix, they kicked our butts and we had to bounce back and overcome them. That’s a true rivalry.”
In a time when Bryant wanted to prove he could win championships without Shaquille O’Neal, the Suns stopped him two consecutive seasons in the playoffs. While the Lakers could not get out of the first round with Bryant leading them, O’Neal was able to win his fourth and final championship with Dwyane Wade as a member of the Miami Heat in 2006.
A couple years later, Bryant got his revenge in the 2010 Western Conference Finals against the Suns in route to his fifth championship against the Boston Celtics. In six games, Bryant averaged 33.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 8.3 assists.