The Los Angeles Lakers renew their decades-old rivalry with the Boston Celtics on Friday night in a matchup of longtime NBA royals laid low (for the moment, at least) by the passage of time and the ravages of injury. There's a bit more excitement than one would expect in a matchup between two teams with a combined record of 28-51, thanks to the impending return of long-injured Boston point guard Rajon Rondo, the contest will still lack the injection of star power that typically accompanies a visit from Hall of Fame L.A. guard Kobe Bryant, who continues to work his way back from a left knee fracture.
While the Lakers legend and venerable Celtics nemesis can't yet suit up for Mike D'Antoni's team, he can travel with the squad and show his support. There's only so much time you can spend rehabbing, though, and Bryant's search for something to do during his downtime led him to a little Catholic campus in Chestnut Hill:
Kobe Bryant just casually sat in on my marketing class
— MaryKate (@mhartttt) January 17, 2014
— Hally Pinaud (@Hallypino) January 17, 2014
Yep — with some time to kill the night before Lakers-Celtics, Kobe decided to take in an international marketing class at Boston College. (If you hadn't heard, Kobe's a pretty big deal overseas — especially in China.)
Boston Magazine's Steve Annear has more:
“I had just begun the class with an example of the how the NBA is a model of successful international marketing and how Kobe Bryant is its biggest star, when suddenly the door opened and in walked Kobe,” claims Marketing Professor Nick Nugent, who was teaching the first class of the semester. “It was surreal.”
Nugent said Bryant told students that he didn’t go to college, “but I love to learn and international marketing is something I am interested in.”
Bryant stayed in the class for two hours, taking notes, and even asking questions. He then signed autographs for the 40 students in the class, according to officials at Boston College.
Kobe, of course, entered the NBA straight out of Lower Merion High School in 1996, so any opportunity to get a taste of college life offers a unique experience worth checking out. (Granted, he's previously said he would've gone to Duke or North Carolina, but hey, at least this visit keeps the Mamba in the ACC.) This isn't the first time Bryant's gone to check out college course work, though, as author Peter Richmond detailed in his book, "Lord of the Rings," an excerpt of which was recently featured at Deadspin:
It soon became clear that [Kobe] was a very intelligent young man (if a terrible rapper). His 1100 SAT could have gotten him a full ride anywhere. In his second season in Los Angeles, he told me he strolled the campus at UCLA, like a college kid he'd never been, and even signed up for some classes.
"When I walked around the campus the first day," he told me, "I thought, This is cool! I got my backpack ready. But I go to class, and there's only, like, twelve people. Where is everybody? 'Oh,' somebody says, 'they don't come to the first session of summer school.' I'm thinking I'm going to get the college experience, talk to some kids, and hang out." He shook his head. "Nobody."
No audience? Then, hell, no college.
That wasn't a problem on Thursday. Bryant had quite an audience, and a stunned one at that, at B.C.:
— Ryan Dontas (@RyanDontas) January 17, 2014
So Kobe Bryant stopped by my brother's International Marketing class at BC tonight... pic.twitter.com/pI9wJ569ZA
— Nick Ironside (@nironside) January 17, 2014
— Josh Reed (@jreed0614) January 17, 2014
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 17, 2014
On one hand, you might chalk up Bryant's surprisingly warm welcome to the likelihood that the students with whom he interacted at B.C. weren't exactly leather-lunged Laker-hating Boston sports die-hards weaned on repeat viewings of McHale clotheslining Rambis; Kobe probably wouldn't have received quite as kind a reception had he, say, dropped into The Harp to watch a Bruins game.
Still, though, familiarity breeding contempt is something of a two-way street, and after all these years of being an integral figure in the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, Kobe's developed something a soft spot for the Hub. From Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:
Sitting on a hallway table at the Lakers’ practice facility, Bryant then chose to unburden himself of a deep, dark secret. Despite being sidelined, he talked of making the road trip with the Lakers and, in particular, tonight’s Garden stop. His voice lowered to just above a whisper. Kobe was serious, and Kobe was smiling.
“I love it,” he said. “I love going into Boston. I love playing there. I mean, the fans are incredible, because, you know, they’re nasty, but they appreciate the game. They appreciate good basketball. They appreciate players who go out there and just leave it all on the court. You know, friend or foe, they have an appreciation for it.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I’m going to interact a little bit with the crowd, absolutely. I’ll have a chance to kind of look around and look at the numbers in the rafters and kind of appreciate it a little bit more. Absolutely, because when you play, you know, you’ve got your blinders on. You’ve got tunnel vision. This will be good.”
It'd be better if Bryant was playing, of course, but if his B.C. visit's any indication, that "interaction with the crowd" should be pretty fun in its own right.
Hat-tip to Ananth Pandian at Hardwood Paroxysm.
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