There’s only one person who could get NBA legend Bill Russell to put aside the intense rivalry between his Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, and that person is Kobe Bryant.
Ahead of the matchup between the Celtics and Lakers on Sunday afternoon, Russell was seen entering the Staples Center wearing something that would normally be unthinkable: a Lakers jersey. Russell honored Bryant, who died in a late January helicopter crash with his daughter and seven others, by wearing his jersey to the game. It was the first time the rival teams have met since Bryant’s death.
NBA legend Bill Russell arrives for Lakers-Celtics wearing a No. 24 Lakers jersey.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 23, 2020
Only for Kobe 💜💛 pic.twitter.com/kCwCPwTfwU
Bill Russell breaking Lakers-Celtics lines for Kobe. pic.twitter.com/C9GGdMnrwS— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 23, 2020
Russell knew what kind of hubbub it would cause for him to be seen wearing a Lakers jersey, and he was ready for it. He shared his personal reasons behind the choice on Twitter.
.@STAPLESCenter #Celtics vs Lakers I see everyone tweeting I am wearing @Lakers jersey. I would do anything to honor #KobeAndGianna I am always a @celtics We had a deeper connection 2+4 does = 6. We had much Love & respect for one another! @NBA #MambaForever #MambaMentality pic.twitter.com/BIAWFULJyi— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) February 23, 2020
The Lakers knew what an honor it was for Russell to wear Bryant’s jersey instead of repping the Celtics, especially since Bryant considered Russell to be one of his mentors.
Respect from the greatest of rivals. Thank you, GOAT. pic.twitter.com/32IBSWEX6g— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 23, 2020
Celtics players made sure Russell wasn’t alone in honoring Kobe. They wore purple wristbands embossed with Bryant’s numbers, 24 and 8.
The Lakers’ organization continues to work through Bryant’s tragic death every day. At a special event for season ticket holders on Sunday, Magic Johnson spoke about his Kobe memories, beginning with his legendary rookie workouts.
Magic Johnson shared some memories of Kobe Bryant at a Lakers-Celtics panel this morning. pic.twitter.com/0hydBssmXU— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) February 23, 2020
Part II of Magic Johnson’s memories of Kobe Bryant. pic.twitter.com/eEA0O07oBJ— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) February 23, 2020
The memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant will take place at 10 a.m. PT on Monday at Staples Center.
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