Kobe Bryant concerned with 2010 NBA Finals, not past history between Boston Celtics and Lakers

LOS ANGELES - What rivalry?

For Kobe Bryant, the long, storied rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics isn't "official."

"In order for a rivalry to become official," Bryant said yesterday, "the other team has to win. We haven't beaten the Celtics yet."

You could hear the booing all the way back in Beantown.

Bryant didn't say it maliciously. It might have been his best quote in weeks, since he's been reduced to giving the media nothing more than crumbs at his daily press briefings. His general mood during the Finals when he's been marched into the interview room can be summed up in two words: total disdain.

But examine the quote and you really don't need to ask yourself if Bryant has something left for tonight's Game 7, the first in 26 years between the NBA's flagship franchises.

He has been waiting for this moment for two long years, ever since the Lakers were unceremoniously bounced out of the 2008 Finals by a record 39 points.

That made the overall score between the Celtics and Lakers, 9-2, in favor of Boston.

But Kobe's math works out this way: Celtics 1, Lakers 0.

Kobe's bottom line drives the good people of Boston crazy, because he seemingly does not want to acknowledge anything between 1959, when Bill Russell's teams started their streak of seven Finals wins over the Lakers, including three Game 7 victories, and the '80s, when Larry Bird won one against Magic Johnson.

Bryant doesn't help his own cause, as was the case when he was confronted with the fact that the rivalry dates back 51 years, with the two teams playing for the championship more times than any other teams in pro football, baseball or hockey.

"Ain't got nothing to do with me right now," he said.

So as far as rivalries go, he puts Duke-Carolina and Spurs-Lakers above this one. That's blasphemy, back in Back Bay.

"I'm in the moment right now," he said. "I've got to focus on that. I can't focus on the hype about it."

However he might downplay it up on a podium, off it he is obsessed with beating Boston. He knows all about the long history between pro basketball's royalty. He understands what the rivalry has meant to the old-guard Lakers, including his good friend, Jerry West, who still can't get over the fact that he lost all three Game 7s to Russell.

"That's not a topic of conversation a 17-year-old kid wants to talk to 'The Logo' about," Bryant said of the former Laker great and VP. "Happier times."

Except around here, it's mainly been only miserable times for the Lakers, who would pull within one title of Boston's NBA-record 17 if they win tonight. Only Johnson's Lakers can feel good about themselves, having won two of three meetings against the Bird-era Celtics.

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