By Sammie Purcell
BU News Service
BOSTON – This week, Boston paid tribute to one of its greatest antagonists.
The death of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant on Sunday shocked the nation and hit the city of Boston in a particularly poignant way. Throughout his 20-year NBA career, Bryant and the Lakers shared an intense rivalry with the Boston Celtics that roused fans and players alike.
During his last game at the TD Garden, Bryant was met with a mix of bittersweet cheers and boos alike from Celtics fans.
“It felt great to get booed,” Bryant said in an interview after the game. “As soon I touched the ball and they booed, I was like “oh, I’m home.’”
While the feud was ferocious, there’s no doubt Bryant holds a special place in the hearts of Celtics fans and players. In the wake of his death, tributes and memories came pouring out.
Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers delivered an emotional interview after hearing the news.
“He means a lot to me obviously,” said Rivers, who coached the Celtics during the 2010 Finals against the Lakers. “He was such a great opponent. It’s what you want in sports. He had that DNA that very few athletes could ever have.”
“Kobe was the ultimate competitor, and I loved him for it,” former Celtics guard Ray Allen wrote on Instagram. “He made us all step our games up. I just wish I could have one more moment with him to tell him thank you.”
Former Celtic and Hall of Famer Bill Russell shared an emotional tribute on Twitter.
“Kobe, you were my biggest fan, but I was yours,” he wrote.
Bryant put up some of his best numbers against the Celtics, won and lost championships and gave a generation of fans the perfect name to shout while tossing balled up paper into the trash can. But as much as Celtics players and fans alike have spent this week thanking Bryant, they all meant a lot to him too.
“I don’t think they really understand how much they meant to my career,” he said in an interview after his last game at TD Garden. “Being able to say thank you to the fans was a beautiful moment.”
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