Assuming Kobe Bryant's days on the championship stage are over, at least he'll know he saved his best trip for last.
Bryant, who's played in seven NBA Finals and won five of them, said his favorite championship round was L.A.'s 2010 meeting with these same Celtics, via Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:
That 2010 series is my favorite series of all time, just because it was the most competitive one. It was the most difficult one. I mean, we’re going against four future Hall of Famers. That doesn’t happen too often.
That championship clash wound up being a seven-round slugfest.
Bryant's Lakers had supreme motivation to perform. Not only did they have a title to defend from 2009, they had the bitter taste of defeat to wash from their palate after dropping the 2008 Finals to the Celtics.
Bryant dazzled in the 2010 series, averaging 28.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.1 steals en route to his second consecutive Finals MVP award.
It was tough to see that happen. I mean, going against Paul and KG, Lakers-Celtics? That’s good basketball. When we played against them, you saw really good basketball. You saw smart players, unselfish players who played both ends of the floor, multi-faceted players.
The old matchups, in Bryant's opinion at least, had everything.
A legendary past as rich as any in this game's history. Hall of Fame talent on both sides of the floor. And, perhaps, his next-favorite fanbase after the Purple and Gold faithful:
I love it. I love going into Boston. I love playing there. I mean, the fans are incredible, because, you know, they’re nasty, but they appreciate the game. They appreciate good basketball. They appreciate players who go out there and just leave it all on the court. You know, friend or foe, they have an appreciation for it.
That appreciation, it appears, is mutual.
Not just for the Celtics fans, but their players as well. Bryant isn't the type to gush with admiration, but in his own way, he gets his message of respect across:
Bryant doesn't always keep an open book like this, but lately he's getting a little more creative with how he spends his time. Considering he's spent nearly the last nine months rehabbing—first from a torn Achilles, then a fracture in his left knee—anything other than that has to seem like a welcome distraction.
As far as the game he lives for, that won't be a possible distraction for a little while yet. Bryant will have his left knee re-evaluated in February, via ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin, and plans to return no matter how rough things get for his Lakers.
That time can't come soon enough.
The only thing better than reliving Bryant's best memories are watching him create new ones.