Every die hard fan of every team in the league probably has a few stories about how Kobe Bryant broke their hearts at one time or another. Celtics fans might have a few more than others: from game 6 of the 2008 Finals to game 7 of the 2010 Finals to his fade-away game-winner over Ray Allen in 2010. Actually, we can even go back to 1996, when he initially told the Celtics he didn’t want to have a pre-draft workout with them. The life-long Lakers fan did finally give in and even wore “the gawd-awful green stuff” but thankfully the Celtics drafted Antoine Walker with their 6th pick instead of Kobe.
When Kobe announced on Sunday – via his Dear Basketball letter – that he would be retiring at the end of the season, one life-long Celtics fan, Jonathan Jacobson, decided to write a letter to Kobe telling him how much he hates him, and it’s one of the best love letters you will ever read.
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