I hate you. As a Celtics fan, I hate you. But as a basketball fan, I respect you. I respect you, and I appreciate all you’ve done for the game of basketball, but please understand, I hate you. For 20 years you put 30 NBA teams through hell. For 20 years you’ve broken hearts, records, and the confidence of players that have stood against you. I love to hate you.
Every chance you came to the Garden or the C’s visited the Staples Center, I’d boo the hell out of you. I booed so much I thought you’d to hear me through my TV. And it hurt watching you dominate the game as you encourage more boos to rain down on you. The boos were made up of pent up aggression for all the pain and suffering you put Celtic fans through. I still get nightmares thinking about game 7 of the 2010 Finals. You got bailed out that game by your teammates, and I hate you for that and I always will hate you for that.
But Kobe, somewhere deep down inside, covered up by all of the hatred and aversion, I love you. I love you for all that you’ve done for the game of basketball. You set the bar for players entering the league and even for players still in the league. Your work ethic was second to none, and it paid off for you in the long run. You’re the hardest working basketball player I have ever seen and the amount of blood, sweat, and tears you left on the court was never left unnoticed. You set an example for young athletes who aspire to be the best. You showed day in and day out that to be the best you got to work harder than the best. You have to set yourself apart from your peers and work ten times harder. And that’s what you did, and that’s what made you the player you are.
When you tore your Achilles back in 2013 I didn’t know what would happen. I wasn’t sure if you were going to retire or keep playing the game you love. An Achilles injury is not an easy injury to come back from, young or old. And on a side note, YOU STILL HIT YOUR FREE THROWS. When you came back from that injury you just made me respect you more. The fact that you weren’t ready to give up on basketball and had the will power to come back and continue to be the Mamba that you so rightfully are just made me respect and appreciate your love for this game. Your heart towards the game of basketball can never be matched.
But something happened last night during your last game ever that I never thought I would have ever seen myself doing, I cheered for you. I stayed up to watch your final game and when the tribute videos played I teared up a bit. You made it easy for me to cheer for you after every time you touched the ball and made a contested jump shot. When you got to 30 points I said let’s get to 40. And when you got to 40 I said let’s get to 50. And after you got to 50, you got to 60 like it was nothing. It made me so happy that this was the way you went out. You went out on your own terms and in your final basketball game ever you dropped 60 points. All I can say is that if that was against the Celtics I would’ve been more upset at the C’s for letting a 37-year-old man drop 60 on us than you actually scoring it.
So I end by saying this, thank you, Kobe Bean Bryant. Thank you Black Mamba for all the memories you left behind. Countless game-winners, 81 points, and all the records you’ve broken, thank you for being you. Thank you for being so easy to hate. I loved to hate you, but I hate to say that I love you.