In the spring of 2010, the Los Angeles Lakers pulled themselves together and started to make a run towards what they hoped would be a rematch of the 2008 NBA Finals with the Boston Celtics.
But first, they had to defeat another rival in the Western Conference Finals: the Phoenix Suns.
The Suns had dispatched L.A. in the first round of the 2006 and 2007 playoffs, and those playoff losses became something of a symbol of the team’s mediocrity at the time.
Kobe Bryant didn’t forget, and he wanted revenge.
He went off in Game 1 versus Phoenix, scoring 40 points and adding five assists as the Lakers blasted the Suns, 128-107.
The Black Mamba did so despite a bad knee, a bad ankle and an avulsion fracture on the index finger of his shooting hand.
Pau Gasol had 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting, while Lamar Odom added 19 points and 19 rebounds.
The Suns realized that not only was Bryant back to his old self but that they were also dealing with a very tall and skilled Lakers frontline they simply couldn’t neutralize.