NBA legend Kobe Bryant was no stranger to this rivalry, meeting the Celtics twice in the NBA Finals and becoming the face of the enemy for Boston fans. But when news of his passing sent shockwaves through the sports world last weekend, Boston quickly showed its support.
The Celtics took a 24-second violation in their game on Sunday against New Orleans, as many teams did, to honor Kobe’s legacy. And in Boston’s first home game since Bryant’s death, the TD Garden was adorned with memorials, Lakers’ jerseys, and a touching video tribute.
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The Celtics held a 24-second moment of silence for Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and the seven other victims of the horrific helicopter crash on Sunday. Following the moment of silence, a montage of Bryant’s most memorable highlights, including a few against the Celtics, was played on the jumbotron. Here is the full tribute:
Though the Celtics typically do lineup introductions and play a hype video beforehand, there was none of that on Thursday night. Instead, the TD Garden just played the tribute to Kobe.
Earlier in the day, Brad Stevens talked about what it means for the Celtics to honor Bryant (via Chris Forsberg):
“I’m glad we’re doing that, I think it’s great. People of New England understand how special Kobe was and what he brought to basketball in this area because of the great battles he had against the Celtics.”
Members of the media were handed Kobe Bryant memorial pins and the Celtics even took off one of its advertisements above the media table to replace it with a memorial for Kobe and his daughter.
Paul Pierce Breaks Silence
One of the Celtics’ all-time greats, Paul Pierce, finally broke his silence on Bryant’s death. In addition to their fierce competition over their respective careers, Bryant and Pierce developed a respect and a friendship off the court as well.
On Wednesday, Pierce appeared on “The Jump” with Rachel Nichols, offering this sentiment on Kobe Bryant and what he meant to his career:
“Even right now it doesn’t even feel real,” Pierce said. “A guy who motivated me, who brought the best out of me on and off the court. And I tell people today there would be no Paul Pierce ‘The Truth’ without Kobe. If people know where the nickname ‘The Truth’ came from, it was from me having a really good game against Kobe Bryant and Shaq dubbing me ‘The Truth.’ … I felt like I lost a brother. I felt like I lost a family member.”
“I grew up without a father. I haven’t seen my father since I was four years old. It’s made me want to get in contact with him. I was really like going through the internet, I’m contacting my mom. This, what happened to Kobe, affected me in that way.”