Today, my friend and I were talking about basketball, and how it has changed since we were young aka the era of the 90’s. He told me that basketball used to be a highly aggressive game, but now the game is a bit more gentle, as shown by the frequency of fouls given. (Or how much more easily they are given). Of course the topic of Kobe came up, and our Pastor shared this letter a Celtics fan wrote to his foe, Kobe Bryant. My friend read it out loud, and after hearing this beautifully written letter I knew it was something I needed to document…
Dear Kobe Bryant,
I hate you.
Can you blame me? As a Celtics fan, I rooted against you for two decades. I rejoiced in your agony when my Celtics beat you in the 2008 Finals. Paul Pierce deserved it way more than you did. You already had three rings at the time.
But three just wasn’t enough for you. You got your revenge and ultimately your fifth ring in 2010 while ripping my heart out in the process. I hope you still know how lucky you are that Kendrick Perkins was out for Game 7.
I read your letter in the Players’ Tribune today and was shocked. Not because you announced your retirement – we all already knew that. I was shocked because of the way your letter made me feel.
In my mind, I have always grouped you and Derek Jeter together. You are the players that we as Boston fans bitterly hate, but cannot help but respect. You played the game the right way – with passion, pride, and professionalism.
You were true students of the game who pursued greatness by working harder than anybody. You became generational icons of your respective sports. You embraced every challenge. You gave it your all. You put your bodies on the line. You knew how to win. You respected your sport, your craft, and your rivalry with Boston.
December 30 marks the last time that you will play in Boston. This is also the last opportunity for us Celtics fans to cheer our team to victory against arguably the most dominant player in the storied history of the Celtics and Lakers.
As you go, so goes what is left of the rivalry that once dominated the NBA. Perhaps someday it will be rekindled by new faces. Perhaps not.
So when you come to the Garden next month, I hope the crowd puts you through hell. I hope we heckle you and boo you more emphatically than we did in the championship bouts. I hope you miss every single free throw. I hope you never forget what it’s like to be surrounded by 17,000 screaming fans who bleed green and would give anything to watch you fail one last time.
I hope we beat LA once again. And when you get pulled from the lineup halfway through the fourth quarter when my Celtics are up by 20 points, I think something beautiful will happen.
Every single person in the Garden will stop booing. We will rise to our feet and show respect in the form of the loudest, most passionate standing ovation you have ever witnessed. We will chant your name. We will wipe our eyes. We will say our bittersweet farewells.
They say you never truly know what you got ’til it’s gone. So before you go, I just want to say thank you for being far more than just a great basketball player. To an entire generation of NBA fans, you are basketball.
I can’t believe I’m saying this… but I’m really going to miss you.
Love (and hate) you always,
A Celtics fan who didn’t appreciate you enough