As we approach the New Year I wanted to look back at the sport we all love.  It’s important to appreciate the things we have.  If you’ve spend one day on Twitter or Reddit or whatever forum you use to discuss sports, you will know that there is a lot of vile thrown around when opinions differ.  However, I know there is a lot of good in all of us who follow the sport of basketball and the NBA.

Every once in a while we are shown the good side of sportsmanship and humanity.  The NBA is a brotherhood.  Although the players fight, claw and scratch their way for a victory on any given night, at the end of the day they collectively strive for greatness in both their team and the league.   The same can be said about the fans of the league.

Last night was a perfect example of this.  It wasn’t the first time and it will not be the last time.   Most people know of the famous “Beat LA” chant that originated in the 80’s at the historical Boston Garden.  What some people may not know is how or why the chant came about.  The current generation of fans remembers it from the 2008 Celtics team that featured Kevin Garnett and the rejuvenation of the franchise.  The most beautiful aspect about the chant is not the phrase itself but why and when the fans back in the 80’s used it.   Here is an excerpt from explaining the origin of the chant:

For most fans, the chant is reminiscent of the playoff games in the old Boston Garden in the 1980s, when Magic Johnson squared off against Larry Bird and the Celtics and Lakers dominated the NBA.

But that’s not when the chant took off in Boston. It actually started as a chant supporting the Philadelphia 76ers.

With 26 seconds to go in Game 7 of the 1982 Eastern Conference finals at the old Garden and the Sixers pulling away from the soon-to-be ex-champs, the crowd began to chant the now-famous phrase. Philadelphia, after all, would be facing the hated Lakers in the NBA Finals.

“You hear what the crowd is chanting to the Sixers? ‘Beat LA'” said CBS color commentator and Celtics legend Bill Russell as the Sixers were beating Boston 117-105 as the seconds ticked down.

“Beat LA … that’s great,” replied play-by-play man Dick Stockton.

That game seven in 1982 started something special in sports.  It showed a human aspect of it all and a bond between the fans and the players that has carried over.  Sports are a getaway from our problems in life but at the same time it teaches us valuable lessons in life.

Disliking a team or player is natural when it comes to sports as you root for your favorite team or player.  It’s part of the game.  There are some people who may take it too far and turn it into a real hatred and obsession, sometimes forgetting that it is just a game.  They even make movies about over the top fans such as The Fan and Celtic Pride.  It is important to note that for every one of these over the top, obsessive fans, there are hundreds of rational and respectful fans as we witnessed last night for Kobe’s final game in Boston.

Kobe Bryant understood the importance of last night game.  He flew his family into town as it was their first time in the city.  Not to say that his last game in Boston is more important than his last game in Charlotte as he holds memories for every city he has played in but the history between the two franchises is special.  There is a love/hate relationship between the Celtics and Lakers.

Bryant played in two Finals against the Celtics, losing one and winning one.  He had a legendary tryout and almost ended up as a Celtic.  He has been booed in Boston, has played great and horrible games in that building but most of all he has always shown his respect to the fans and the city.  Last night they showed it back, bidding farewell to an all-time great, a one of a kind player.

It all started with his introduction.

The Celtic fan based has spent most of their lives, all 20 seasons that Kobe has played in this league, rooting against Kobe, yet they understood this was the last time they would get to see him play.  The Celtic players cherished the moment as well, as each of them before tip off when over for a hug.  However, when the game started, the boo birds rained down the first time he touched the basketball; it was back to business while the game clock was on.

The Lakers ended up winning the game with the help of Kobe.  He nailed a crucial three pointer in the fourth to help seal the victory for the Lakers.  As weird as it may be for Celtic fans, it was a fitting ending to Kobe’s last time playing in Boston.

As the final minute began to wind down, the Boston faithful paid an honorable tribute to Kobe.  At the end of the day, many fans understood the importance of the moment, with sports and the respect that comes with it.  It was the perfect farewell to someone who has been known to be the enemy for all of these years.  It reminded me of the scene in Anchorman when Vince Vaughn tells Will Ferrell how much he hates him but damn, does he respect him.  That is what the Celtics fans did last night.

After the game, Kobe opened up about the importance of Boston in his career and how it has shaped him as a human being, “For the second half of my career, it’s the most important piece,” he said. “Because when we lost in 2008, that was the turn. That was when I said, ‘I have to figure this leadership thing out. I can’t go through this [again].'” This is a perfect example at how sports help us become better people.

Last night’s game was about respect.  Respect for the game and respect for each other.  It displayed the reason why we all love sports and the game of Basketball. And for this, I am thankful for Kobe Bryant, the Celtics fans and everyone who loves and respects sports.

Via Jared Weiss CLNS

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