Doc Rivers and Kobe Bryant have something of a history together. That’s mostly because, during the defining stretches of their careers, they were on opposite ends of one of the greatest rivalries in professional sports. Kobe in his prime with the Lakers met the Rivers-led Big 3 Celtics in the NBA Finals twice in a span of three years between 2008-2010, splitting a pair of championship trophies between them.
The Celtics won their first showdown decisively with a 39-point rout in Game 6 to take the series 4-2 and give the franchise its 17th title. But Bryant and the Lakers would have their revenge in 2010 with a stunning Game 7 win to give the Lakers their 16th championship overall.
That last one didn’t sit well with Rivers. In fact, it was almost enough to make him quit basketball for good. So you’ll have to forgive him if won’t be shedding any tears over the Mamba’s pending retirement. Here’s what Rivers had to say when asked whether he was feeling emotional about Kobe’s career coming to a close. Via Robert Morales of The Long Beach Press-Telegram:
“Not at all, not at all,” he said. “I’ll be very happy when Kobe retires. He’s inflicted pain on me personally and so I’m looking forward to it. Everybody else is lying. They’re saying, like, they want Kobe to keep playing and that’s not true. The guy, he’s inflicted pain on all of us.”
Rivers, of course, intends it as a compliment. There’s obviously great mutual respect between these two fierce competitors, but don’t expect them to get sentimental in their old age. They wouldn’t have it any other way. To be certain, it isn’t much of a rivalry anymore with their respective teams headed in opposite directions, so they’ll just have to savor their last two showdowns against one another this week with back-to-back games at Staples Center on Tuesday and Wednesday.