Bye-Bye, Bryant

Kobe waves to the Boston crowd before stepping off the TD Garden floor one last time. Photo from ESPN

Kobe waves to the Boston crowd before stepping off the TD Garden floor one last time. Photo from ESPN

In the heart of Boston, the TD Garden is usually filled with thousands of energetic Celtics fans sporting green jerseys of Celtics legends like Larry Bird, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. Not tonight.

TD Garden usually has fans only supporting their team with exhilarating and loud cheers or wild signs and posters. Not tonight.

TD Garden always hates their long-time rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, and their All-Star leader, Kobe Bryant. Not tonight.

Tonight, December 30, 2015, TD Garden and their fans put respect over rivalry.

A majority of jerseys of Celtics legends were replaced with those of the Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant. There were cheers and posters honoring Kobe with sayings like “Thank you for 20 years of great basketball, Kobe” and “#RE24ECT. Congrats Kobe.” The Celtics organization themselves even acknowledged Kobe with a parting gift and the hatred towards L.A. waned greatly for this one game.

After 19 seasons as the Lakers’ most dominant player, Kobe announced his retirement earlier this year. Kobe Bryant played his last game in Boston this Wednesday night. Although it was his first time there this year, Bryant has a history as one of the team’s biggest rivals.

The Celtics and Lakers have been rivals for years after meeting in the Finals numerous times. The two times Kobe faced the Celtics in the Finals were in 2008 and 2010. The Celtics won the series 4-2 in 2008, and the Lakers won in Game 7 during the 2010 matchup. With 16 and 17 championships the Lakers and Celtics, respectively, have the most championships in the NBA, and Kobe earned L.A. five of these rings.

The Kobe that beat Boston in 2010 is not the same Kobe that played on the famous Parquet court Wednesday. After numerous injuries and the effects of aging, Kobe’s having one of his worst seasons shooting. The struggling Lakers, now 6-27, are having their worst start since Kobe’s been a member of the team. However, the Lakers managed to pull out a win against a usually dominant Celtics team, who is showing playoff potential with their 18-14 record.

The Lakers kept an early lead most of the game, and Jordan Clarkson led them with 24 points. As hundreds of Kobe and Lakers fans alike watched and cheered on Kobe, he missed his first few shots, but then got on a roll. He finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, his first double-double this season.

The Black Mamba hit a clutch 3-point shot late in the fourth quarter to secure the Lakers win. The Lakers won 112-104 to end Kobe’s storied career in Boston.

KO-BE chants echoed throughout the stadium when they announced the 6’6” guard from Lower Merion High School one last time, and they continued during the final minutes of the ball game. After creating the infamous “Beat L.A.” chant several years ago, even Celtics fans joined in the cheers honoring the future Hall-of-Famer.

Additionally, he was presented a plaque with pictures from prior games at TD Garden during the 2008 Finals, a piece of the court, and statistics from his career against Boston. It read, “In recognition of your many legendary performances on the Parquet floor. From your friends and rivals, The Boston Celtics.”

Despite overlooking Kobe in the 1996 NBA draft and losing to him in 2010, the Celtics organization and their fans surely will miss competing against the legendary opponent. So long, Kobe.