PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Kobe Bryant was one of Philadelphia’s own, but he had a complicated relationship with Philly sports fans. Like any relationship, there are ups-and-downs. The relationship between Bryant and Philly fans is a true testimony to that, but it did come with a happy ending.
If you’re a certain age, you may not remember Bryant’s back-and-forth with Philly fans.
“He would tear your heart out no matter if it was hometown. It didn’t matter. He wanted to beat you,” 94WIP host Rickie Ricardo said.
It was the 2001 NBA Finals. Bryant’s Lakers were looking for a back-to-back title, and he said he wanted to cut the hearts out of Sixers’ fans.
The cuts were precise in a five-game series.
“I don’t know how else you want him to react,” CBS3 “Odds On” co-host Rob Ellis said. “Would you want Kobe Bryant as a Laker to come in and lay down? So I didn’t have a problem with it. But I think Philadelphia fans, when it’s one of their own, take that very personally.”
Sixers fans enacted their revenge in 2002, booing Bryant as he raised an All-Star MVP Award in his hometown.
“I was a Sixers fan and he was a Laker. I can see why people wouldn’t like him,” 94WIP host Rob Cherry said. “And why he wouldn’t understand he’d get booed here. Of course he’d get booed here as a Laker. When you say I’ll cut your heart out and at the All-Star Game the next year, the same thing it was here, he got booed because he’s a Laker.”
Acrimonious at times, Bryant and Philly sports fans softened toward each other over the years, as his final game in Philadelphia was met with a standing ovation.
“And you saw the respect with the cheers. I think Kobe came around, the fans came around and you saw a lot of love between both parties,” Ellis said.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) August 23, 2018
In 2018, Bryant showed how alike he is with the Philly fans when it came time to celebrate the Eagles’ Super Bowl win.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 5, 2018
“When he did that Eagles’ video at the Super Bowl, it was like everything else here. I guess we made peace with him,” Cherry said.
Bryant was and is a cultural icon.