Despite making only 6-of-24 shots from the field in Game 7 of the Finals, Kobe Bryant rallied to score 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, including eight free throws and a critical pull-up jumper over Ray Allen, and to grab four of his 15 rebounds.
Here’s what Bryant had to say after the contest:
(On-court Trophy Presentation)
Q. How does this championship stand out to you?
KOBE BRYANT: This is the sweetest. We’ve been downplaying the whole series between us and the Celtics and we had to focus on what we had to do, but we understood how bad the city wanted it, there’s no question about it. This one is by far the sweetest because it’s against them and because it’s the hardest one by far.
Q. How did you not get involved in the hype during the run?
KOBE BRYANT: You try not to. Tonight it got the best of me. I wanted it so bad and sometimes you want something so bad it slips away from you. My guys picked me up. I can’t say enough about the Spaniard. That guy is unbelievable and just a hell of a player. We wouldn’t have won it without him.
Q. 15 rebounds, what were you, Kareem out there?
KOBE BRYANT: We jut have to crash the boards. Whoever won the rebounds won each game, so I was trying to get in there and make as many as I could.
Q. You’ve been involved in one of Phil Jackson’s threepeats. What are you going to say to him to convince him to come back?
KOBE BRYANT: He knows how bad I want him back. I’ve told him that. I’ve been openly blunt about that. Let’s go for it again.
Q. You talked on the postgame interview about actually feeling the moment and feeling the pressure, something unaccustomed for you.
KOBE BRYANT: You know, I just wanted it so bad. I wanted it so, so bad. On top of that, I was on E. Man, I was really, really tired. And the more I tried to push, the more it kept getting away from me. I’m just glad that my teammates really got us back in the game. I was thankful that I was able to make one damn shot at the end of the game and made some free throws. But it was a tough one.
Q. You said it was special beating the Celtics, so you did feel a rivalry?
KOBE BRYANT: I was just lying to you guys. When you’re in the moment you have to suppress that because if you get caught up in the hype of it all, you don’t really play your best basketball. But I mean, you guys know what a student I am of the game. I know every series that the Lakers have played in. I mean, I was just a Laker nut, and I know every Celtics series, I know every statistic. It meant the world to me, as well, but I couldn’t focus on that. I had to focus on playing.
Q. When you were struggling what did it mean to you early in the fourth quarter when the fans kind of started chanting “Kobe” to help get you going, encourage you? What did that means to you?
KOBE BRYANT: I’ll be really honest with you, I didn’t even hear them. I was so tired my ears were ringing, they really were. It felt like I was 6:00 in the morning and I was on the track running. I was just drained.
Q. On another note you said after the game, I believe, that this was the hardest of the titles that you’ve won. Just talk about how hard this series was, and was this maybe the most tension filled, feistiest Finals game you’ve been in?
KOBE BRYANT: It was. It was the most physical one. They believed that they could beat us. Obviously what happened in ’08. But the physicality of their team, how smart they are, extremely well coached, and guys made big shots. It was tough. They weren’t going to beat themselves, we had to beat them.
Q. Can you speak in terms of what this means to you individually? We know what it means as a team, but what about individually for you?
KOBE BRYANT: Just got one more than Shaq. (Laughter). You can take that to the bank. You know how I am. I don’t forget anything.
Q. Now that the season is over and you’re being straight with us, what is the condition of your body and what is the toll of all these games?
KOBE BRYANT: I’m old.
Q. What does it feel like?
KOBE BRYANT: It felt good enough to get through the playoffs. I’m obviously going to have to look at the knee and figure some things out. I can’t play a whole entire season the way it is now. But I’ll have to figure some things out. Same thing with the finger. You know, without the tape, I can’t grip a basketball. There’s some things I’ll have to figure out in the off season, but it was good enough to get through this one.
Q. Is it a matter of fixing your body or is it a matter of learning how to play differently as you age?
KOBE BRYANT: No, it’s just an injury, and that’s what drove me nuts and made this even sweeter was everybody kept talking about, he’s old, he’s old. I was hurt. I drained my knee, and all of a sudden reeling off 30 point games like they’re 10 point games and everybody said how young I looked. I was hurt.
Q. You are aware that you’ve played more NBA basketball by a long shot than anyone under the age of 32?
KOBE BRYANT: You want to start my motivation right now for next season? Don’t start with me right now.
Q. First of all, I don’t know if you know, but Shaq said yesterday if you win today you’re the greatest Laker of them all. I don’t know if you heard that.
KOBE BRYANT: That’s fantastic.
Q. It matters a lot to you, doesn’t it?
KOBE BRYANT: Of course.
Q. What did Fisher say to you guys after the third quarter? He looked unbelievably animated.
KOBE BRYANT: He’s our emotional leader and our verbal leader, and he said, guys, we’ve got 12 minutes, 12 minutes to dig down, get back into this game. Everything that we’ve worked hard for, we’ve got 12 minutes to put it back together, and we followed suit.
Q. Fitting he came up with that three pointer late again, too.
KOBE BRYANT: That’s D Fish. That’s just who he is. You know, there’s not enough words of praise that I can use to describe him and how I feel about him.
Q. After Game 2 you had Tim and Mike Procopio fly out to Boston. How much of an overall playoffs
KOBE BRYANT: Huge. He’s my Jack Bauer. He gave me all the edits and scouting reports and wrote defensive rotations of the Celtics. He was my eyes and ears so when I played the game, I’d use all the scouting reports and all the information and it was huge for me.
Q. That was all postseason?
KOBE BRYANT: All postseason, particularly this series, because Boston was a huge problem for me, personally a huge problem, and I needed some extra eyes and ears to help me get through it.
Q. No. 5 is also one away from Michael, and I know one of the things you admired about him, he had an innate ability to figure out how to win a game, whether it’s offense, defense, whatever. Where did you dig in the memory banks in your mind? Where did you find that tonight?
KOBE BRYANT: Well, I had to do something. I mean, I had to rebound the ball. Rebounding was a big key for us, and it was a big focus for me. It’s whatever it takes to win the game. You’ve got to do whatever it takes. That’s my job. Sometimes shots aren’t going to fall, but you’ve got to figure something out to help your team win, and nobody was better at it than MJ.
Q. Speaking of him and No. 5, how much does that mean to you, taking one more step toward that mark?
KOBE BRYANT: I don’t know. I mean, it’s tough for me to really put that in any kind of context in terms of he and I goes because 90 percent of what I’ve learned and what I’ve figured out comes from him. So this is not a situation where it’s me and Shaq rivalry kind of thing. It’s not the same thing. It’s different. It’s more of a it’s a genuine love that I have for him and what he’s done for me. It’s completely different.
Q. If you don’t mind one quick look ahead, if you’re able to get back here next year, can you envision it would be impossible that you’d play in some LeBron Wade, LeBron Bosh combination, playing against a team with multiple guys like that?
KOBE BRYANT: What is it with you, you want to just emotionally drain me? I don’t want to think about that. Those guys, I’ve seen those guys up close and personal. I don’t want to think about playing against both of them at the same time. I want to enjoy this for a little bit.
Q. You like a challenge. Would you welcome something like that going for a third?
KOBE BRYANT: What do you mean by that? I’m going to be surly with you.