The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are meeting for the first time since Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. Hall of Famer Bill Russell was on hand to support his former team in the Celtics, but he was representing the Lakers with his clothing choice. Russell was spotted wearing a No. 24 Kobe Bryant jersey.
Respect from the greatest of rivals. Thank you, GOAT. pic.twitter.com/32IBSWEX6g— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 23, 2020
"Respect. Mr Russell," many fans wrote in response to the news. The messages of support were plentiful on Sunday as Lakers and Celtics fans alike showed their love for Russell and his gesture during this rivalry game.
"Jeannine & I are absolutely shocked to hear of the loss of one of my favorite people & one of the best basketball minds in the history of the game!" Russell wrote on Twitter following Bryant's death. "Our hearts & prayers to Vanessa & his girls. You were my biggest fan, but I was yours."
The rivalry between Boston and Los Angeles is viewed as one of the NBA's best, and Russell was on hand for many of these battles. He led the Celtics to 11 championships during his 13-year career before retiring to serve as an occasional coach or executive.
Russell never faced off with Bryant due to ending his career in 1969, but he is well aware of the impact that the Lakers star had on the league and its top rivalry. He previously explained that it was possible to maybe outplay Bryant during a game, but no one in the NBA could outwork him.
Bryant expressed his admiration for Russell back in 2016. As he explained to NBC Sports, the Los Angeles Lakers star viewed Russell as someone that could provide mentorship and guidance when necessary. The former Boston Celtics star led his team to 11 championships despite dealing with changing rosters and various team dynamics.
"He has been an unbelievable mentor, especially from the standpoint of leadership and understanding groups, team dynamics and some of the experiences that he went through and how he was able to manage some of the teams that he played on, the difficulties he might have faced," Bryant said in 2016. "He's been an invaluable voice in my ear."
Bryant and Russell had an incredible amount of mutual respect, and the former Boston Celtics star is continuing to honor his friend with the jersey on Sunday.
(Photo Credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images)