NBA news: Celtics legend Bill Russell wears Kobe Bryant jersey to game
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Celtics legend Bill Russell wears Kobe Bryant jersey to game vs. Lakers

Lakers, Celtics, NBA, Kobe Bryant, Bill Russell

Boston Celtics great and NBA legend Bill Russell sported a Kobe Bryant jersey to the Staples Center on Sunday afternoon as the Celtics and Lakers prepare to do battle.

Russell–who has always been one of the foremost ambassadors in the game–crossed rivalry lines to pay homage to Bryant, who was among the nine persons killed in a helicopter crash outside of Calabasas on Jan. 26:

Russell issued a statement immediately following news of Bryant’s death, calling Kobe “one of my favorite people” while extending his condolences to the Bryant family.

Kobe had the utmost respect for Russell as a player and a leader (via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston):

“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. “He’s been an invaluable voice in my ear.”

They may have played for rival teams, but Russell and Bryant were each lynchpins of their respective franchises, and they finished their playing careers as two of the greatest winners in the history of the sport.

Sunday’s contest between the Celtics and Lakers carries a little extra weight in the NBA world.

Aside from the sheer quality of each team, the game immediately precedes a memorial for Bryant and his daughter, Gianna (who also died in the fatal crash) that will be held on Monday. The Celtics even delayed their flight out of L.A. so players and coaches could attend the memorial.

Plenty of stars will be attendance on Sunday–with Russell among them–but the contest will also serve as a precursor as the Lakers honor Kobe’s memory on Monday.