The respect affair between Kobe Bryant and the Boston Celtics

As you surely know by now, Laker supervillain Kobe Bryant is making his last visit to Boston tonight against the Celtics. Kobe and the Celtics have a long history, and a rivalry that was thankfully rekindled when the New Big 3 Era came together and held up Boston's end of the bargain by becoming relevant again and making it matter.

Most Celtic fans begrudgingly respect him, yet are far from fans of his. With time passing, Kobe going on his retirement tour, and the fact that he and his team have become somewhat sympathetic non-threats this NBA season, it seems many of the feelings toward Kobe and his last return to Boston have been positive from the fans.

The organization has people that run the full range of emotions towards Kobe's last trip. Earlier in the year, Danny Ainge scoffed at the idea of his retirement tour, and jokingly suggested he might play highlights of the Celtics 2008 Championship on the jumbotron.

Current players Isaiah Thomas and Evan Turner have nothing but great things to say about him. Thomas even grew up idolizing Bryant and the Lakers, but is smart enough to blame his father for that and refer to it as "brainwashing".

Turner says that Kobe always treated him well, despite being warned by teammates that he was a killer and told not to look him in the eyes.

It goes the other way too. Kobe, who much like Isaiah Thomas grew up a diehard Lakers fan, HATED the Celtics as a child. Yet, according to's Baxter Holmes, when he worked out for them before the 1996 NBA Draft, he was awestruck by Dennis Johnson, and said he "would love to be part of this great tradition".

M.L. Carr, who compared workout Kobe to Michael Jordan and said he had the best interview he's ever been a part of, apparently came very close to drafting Kobe that year, but went with Antoine Walker instead. If you think that is a blunder on his part, consider that Kobe dropped to number 13 after the Celtics chose 6th, and the players chosen after Walker were Lorenzen Wright, Kerry Kittles, Samaki Walker, Erick Dampier, Todd Fuller, and the Ukraine Train himself, Vitaly Potapenko.

"When I tell you this -- and I don't like to say a lot of good things about the Lakers -- but I am absolutely telling you this straight up: He was unbelievable in the interview," Carr says. "He was the best interview that I've ever been a part of. Kobe knew the league as well as anyone. He knew the Celtics from a historical standpoint. He knew the Celtics probably better than most Celtics did at 17 years old."

Carr says Bryant traced the Celtics history from Russell through Bird. He pointed out various aspects of each player's game and broke down moves that made them special. He referenced specific playoff series and numerous Finals matchups."

Could you imagine the ripple effect of the Celtics drafting Kobe at number 6 instead of Antoine? Good lord. Holmes asked him what he would have done had he been drafted by the Celtics, and Bryant's response was, "I would've tried to carry on Bird's legacy," Bryant says without hesitation. "Absolutely. I would've done it with a tremendous amount of pride and honor." After that he went on about how he is a huge fan of Larry Bird and Red Auerbach. I mean this can't all be genuine right? If it is, there is one problem, and it is in the following quote, also taken from Baxter's article.

Bryant also raves about Auerbach, the Celtics' patriarch. "I read everything about him," Bryant says. "One of the things that I thought was really cool was how he created the legacy with the Celtics franchise. In other words, the players that he brought in eventually get older and then they feel a sense of intimidation and insecurity with the younger group coming in. So Red just changed the culture by changing the dynamics and saying, 'Listen, you train them. As a result of you training them, you're here forever.'

"It's that little twist [that] enabled them to win year after year after year. Even though this generation of players is getting older and they're phasing out, they train them to win in that same way and now here they come. And in turn they do the same thing. As a kid watching that and reading that, stuff like that, little things like that, I've always picked up."

Obviously that's a lesson Kobe took to heart, as he is doing a GREAT job passing the torch to the Lakers' young guns Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell. Wait, what!?!? So obviously some of the back and forth compliments and good gestures between the Celtics and Kobe are a little forced and exaggerated, by them and the media, but we've seen it before with these two teams. How about Larry Bird's retirement ceremony? Remember him tearing off Magic Johnson's warmup jacket to reveal Magic was wearing a Celtics t-shirt underneath?

Weird. This stuff is all weird. Play it safe tonight and just boo him like Rob Welch demands.

Top Photo Credit: Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

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