Celtics

Celtics

BOSTON -- Numb.

Disbelief.

Fake News. 

I know I wasn’t the only one who went through all of those emotions and then some upon hearing of the helicopter crash that killed NBA icon Kobe Bryant. 

Even as he walked away from the court as a player, that same competitive drive that made him one of the all-time greats to ever lace ‘em up in the NBA, would serve him well in his life beyond playing the game. 

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He was an in-demand businessman, giving Ted Talks across the country. 

Heck, he even won an Oscar. 

And while his legacy will live on, he will always have a special place in the hearts of Celtics fans. 

As much as the franchise’s overall disdain for the Los Angeles Lakers runs deep, there was always mutual respect between Kobe and this franchise. 

And my respect for Bryant began years ago when I covered the Detroit Pistons who, at that time, were consistently among the best teams in the NBA. 

During the 2004 NBA Finals would be the most time I spent around Bryant and just as importantly, those who knew Bryant best. 

Then-Pistons guard Richard “Rip” Hamilton grew up in Pennsylvania and had many prep battles with Bryant as they both were ascending towards a pro career. 

The one thing Hamilton told me back then that would be at the core of Bryant’s existence as a player and afterward, was his unmatched competitive drive. 

 

“Nobody, nobody, is more competitive than Kobe,” Hamilton said at the time.

That drive served him well as a player and would later prove invaluable to a generation of players that came after him, including Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who admits that growing up he was a huge Kobe Bryant fan. 

Bryant spent time talking with Tatum about ways to improve his game; among the tips was to incorporate the catch-and-shoot dynamic of Hamilton’s game into his, on those occasions when guarded by a bigger defender who insists on taking away the paint. 

Tatum’s one-word reply via Twitter to Bryant’s assessment ... Wow!

And for years, that was an all-too-common reaction to what Bryant did on the floor in leading the Lakers to -- along with the Celtics -- be the standard-bearers for NBA greatness. 

The impact of Bryant’s death will be felt throughout the NBA, a player whose impact will not soon be forgotten. 

Especially around these parts, where as much as Celtics Nation hated when he would have one of those off-the-charts scoring nights or clutch shots against the Boston, there was always a heightened level of respect; the kind of respect that, like Bryant’s play, will stand the test of time.

Boston athletes react to shocking news of Bryant's death