Once it became official, Kobe Bryant jumped up in the air and flailed his arms. The grumpy personality Bryant usually displayed suddenly evaporated. And he couldn’t stop smiling.
Bryant just won his fourth NBA championship in the 2009 NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic. And though he experienced this already before, the adrenaline rush felt different. Hence why the Nike Prelude IV that he wore during that time captures what he calls the “pure joy.”
“The shoes are pure joy because of all the hard work and the misery the year before,” Bryant said in a Nike interview, referring to the Lakers’ 2008 NBA Finals loss to the Lakers. “I remember winning the championship and being on cloud nine. It was very different than he previous ones. The previous ones I was 21 years old, 22 years old, 23 years old and it was like, ‘This is what happens.’ You come into the league and you win championships.”
That obviously didn’t happen.
The Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal to Miami partly because of his contentious relationship with Bryant. The Lakers parted ways with Phil Jackson. They went through three NBA seasons that entailed a missed playoff appearance and two first-round exits to the Phoenix Suns. That all changed once the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies, leading to three consecutive NBA Finals and giving Bryant additional perspective about winning.
“When you start from literally the ground and work at the top of that mountain,” Bryant said, “the feeling is second to none.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org