Forget the four rings. Forget the MVP award. Forget the 12 straight All-Star appearances. Forget the numerous All-NBA teams he’s made, and forget the slam dunk trophy. In Philadelphia these accomplishments aren’t the reason why there is so much dislike towards its native son Kobe Bryant, it goes much deeper.
In Philadelphia, arguably the toughest sports town on athletes in America, it’s hard enough for the city’s own athletes to get love from the hometown faithful and it’s even more difficult for an athlete from another city to find any love from fans here. It’s uncommon, but it happens in this city more then you would think.
On April 16th, 2003 one of the greatest athletes of all-time entered the First Union Center to play the last game of his career and was met with a standing ovation from the Philly fans in attendance. Michael Jordan who amassed six NBA Championships, five MVP awards, one defensive player of the year award, 14 All-Star appearances, and hundreds of other accomplishments was loved. He didn’t grow up in the Philadelphia area, he beat the Sixers on a regular basis, and he was the definition of a showboat but he was loved.
In his final game of his illustrious career Jordan lost to the Sixers 107-87, but it wasn’t the loss which Jordan will forever remember it was the way in which Philadelphia fans responded to the moment. “This is the final retirement…The Philly people did a great job. They gave me the biggest inspiration, in a sense.” Jordan said, “Obviously, they wanted to see me make a couple of baskets and then come off. That was very, very respectful, and I had a good time.”
Now switch to February 10th, 2002. The NBA-All star game was being held at the First Union Center and Philadelphia was home to the games brightest stars. Fans were thrilled at the opportunity to see the stars showcase their talent on the court, and the city was soaking in the scene. The West beat the East 135-120 and Kobe Bryant won the MVP of the game scoring 31 points to go with five assists and five rebounds. In the award ceremony following the game, Philadelphia fans showered Kobe Bryant in boo’s like they had done for many years before, and this time for the entire country to see. It was a statement. A statement that you’re not the beloved athlete that you think you are and a statement which showed that until you show a little class and respect, then you will never be beloved in this city.