BOSTON (CBS) — Bill Belichick is revered as a legend in the Boston sports landscape. Kobe Bryant is regarded as one of the biggest sports enemies in the city.
So it’s odd, then, to try to picture the scene that Bryant painted in a recent interview regarding a conversation the Lakers star had with the Patriots’ head coach during Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
“I’m sitting there on the bench, just beside myself, burning with frustration, and I look over and Bill Belichick is walking toward me,” Kobe told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan of the night the Celtics won the championship in Boston. “I had never met him. Never spoken to him. He had courtside seats across from our bench, and with 20 seconds left in the game, he came over and said, ‘Don’t you worry about this. I know what you are going through. We just lost a tough one ourselves. Just bounce back. Be ready next year.'”
Belichick, of course, was referring to the Patriots’ loss in Super Bowl XLII to the Giants, which had taken place a few months prior to the Lakers’ loss in Boston. It was a conversation that clearly left an impression on Bryant, who otherwise said he remembered that night as “one of the lowest moments of my career.”
“He didn’t have to say that,” Bryant said of Belichick’s advice. “The clock was winding down, we were getting ready to walk off. I thought it was really cool. Respect across our professions.”
Bryant said that since then, he and Belichick have continued a sort of professional friendship, with Belichick visiting the Lakers’ locker room last year and offering some of his coaching advice.
One Boston sports icon who doesn’t quite have that cordial of a relationship with Bryant is Paul Pierce. Bryant, who earlier in the interview expressed great appreciation of Rajon Rondo’s game, shared his history of trash talk with Pierce.
“If there’s one Celtic that tries to talk smack to me, it will be Paul,” Kobe told MacMullan. “We’re similar in age, have been through some of the same things, so he feels like he can try. But he’s not as good at it as I am.
“I don’t talk trash often, but when I do, I go for the jugular.”
Thursday night at the Garden, he’ll aim for the jugular against Pierce and the Celtics for one of the last few times. If Pierce is able to get the better of Kobe in tonight’s trash-talking battle, perhaps Belichick will be there to pat Kobe on the back and tell him there’s always next year.