BOSTON -- At the ripe old age of 33, Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant seems to be softening on his archrival Celtics. Once disregarding the rivalry during the 2008 and 2010 NBA finals, he's grown to respect his fellow members of the NBA veterans club.
"It's been a dream come true growing up and watching it," Bryant said of the rivalry after his Lakers beat the Celtics in overtime, 88-87. "Here I am part of it. It's great. The only difference between us and the '80s is that guys over there in the other locker room I actually know and like. That's the big difference between this time around and the '80s."
Bryant finished with 25 points on 11-of-24 shooting to go along with five rebounds and four assists.
"It's always a brawl in every fight," he said. "It's ugly. It's physical. I've enjoyed competing agianst them. I like all of them personally. On the court, that personal stuff goes out the window. It's been fun."
Asked if he felt his Lakers and these Celtics are two aging teams whose championship window may be sealed shut at this point, Bryant said, "I don't know. They've got three Hall of Famers and a fourth one coming. That don't look too familiar to me over here."
Like the Celtics, the Lakers have struggled early in the lockout-shortened season, starting 15-11 through the first third of the season. After longtime Lakers coach Phil Jackson's retirement and the trade of Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom prior to the season, Bryant has had to adjust to a new system under coach Mike Brown and a crop of new teammates.
Meanwhile, the Celtics and coach Doc Rivers have remained fairly consistent, even if Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are approaching retirement age and Rajon Rondo has been the subject of trade rumors. And there still is something special about the C's-Lakers rivalry.
"It's a throwback in the sense that we're old school," Bryant said. "Ray's old school. Paul's old school. Kevin's old school. And so is Rajon. How we prepare for the game, how much the game means to us, you can see the emotion that they pour into it, how mcuh they put into the game. You don't really see that too much fromt the young guys nowadays."
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