It's not like Ray Allen needed any extra motivation to drop eight 3-pointers on the L.A. Lakers in Sunday night's Game 2 of the NBA Finals. But if he wanted to, he probably could have dug deep and found it.
News flash: Ray can't stand Lakers star Kobe Bryant. And truth be told, Kobe isn't too fond of Ray, either.
It goes back a lot further than Sunday night. A lot further than two years ago, when Ray's Celtics beat Kobe's Lakers in a six-game Finals.
The animosity between the two goes back as far as 2004, when Ray was with the Seattle SuperSonics and Kobe was just starting out his post-Shaquille O'Neal era in a Lakers uniform.
Though he was injured at the time, Ray was in attendance for Kobe's first preseason game of the 2004-05 season, Kobe's first night as the undisputed alpha dog in the Lakers' locker room. The Lakers lost to the Sonics, but Kobe scored 15 of his team's first 20 points and finished with 35 total. The next day, Ray didn't exactly praise his colleague in the purple and gold.
"He's going to be very selfish," Allen told the media on Oct. 14, 2004. "And he feels like he needs to show this league and the people in this country that he is better without Shaq. He can win championships without Shaq. So offensively, he's going to jump out and say, 'I can average 30 points. I can still carry the load on this team.'"
In a lot of ways, Ray was right. In the brief interlude after Shaq left and before Pau Gasol arrived in Southern California, Kobe was one of the most selfish players in the game. He forced the entire offense to revolve around him. He alienated his teammates, even talented youngsters like Lamar Odom and Caron Butler. He quickly piled up scoring titles, but didn't win a thing.
Whether he was right or wrong to say what he said, word of Ray's comments got back to Kobe. The next time their two teams met in preseason, Kobe was in no mood to let Ray get to him.
"I'm tired of talking about Ray, to be honest with you," he told the media on Oct. 26, 2004. "I'm tired of talking about Ray. Next question."
Kobe Bryant is a competitive guy. He lives to beat everybody, and not only that, but to prove everybody wrong. And part of the reason he got so irked at Ray Allen is that Ray was right.
"I think the point production is not going to be so much what people are going to look at," Allen said six years ago. "[Tracy] McGrady did it in Orlando, Allen [Iverson] did it in Philly. Can you win a championship? I think that's the question. Carrying guys on your back and making everybody better."
And there you have it.
There's the biggest reason that Kobe Bryant has such hatred for Ray Allen. Because for the longest time, Kobe couldn't win a thing, and Ray had the guts to call him on it.
Ray's never been one for making controversial statements. But when he does, he makes them count.
Kobe, who had three championship rings before his 24th birthday, went through a seven-year period in his career where he couldn't get back to the top of the basketball world. That ate at him — and Ray, who never so much as sniffed the Finals before he was 32, was the one calling him out.
Win something, Kobe. Stop making it all about yourself and just win.
It was a bold statement, and it was one that six years later, Kobe still hasn't forgotten.
Both men are winners now. Ray got his first title in 2008, and a year later, Kobe won one without Shaq.
This year, only one can win again. And both of these guys really, really, really don't want to let the other one win.
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