Bryant's return wins a big round of boos

The Lakers' Kobe Bryant reacts to a missed shot during Friday's 93-81 win over the 76ers. Bryant had nine points in the game.
The Lakers' Kobe Bryant reacts to a missed shot during Friday's 93-81 win over the 76ers. Bryant had nine points in the game.

The Lakers star was upstaged by the attendance of Eagles QB Michael Vick.

Posted: December 18, 2010

It was an eventful 24 hours for Kobe Bryant during his homecoming. He saw a gymnasium dedicated in his name, suffered a sprained right index finger, was upstaged by another athlete from another sport - and couldn't have been happier.

And, oh, yes, Bryant's Lakers defeated the 76ers, 93-81, on Friday night in front of a jazzed-up sellout crowd of 20,366 at the Wells Fargo Center.

On Thursday, Lower Merion dedicated its gym to Bryant, Class of '96, who kicked in $411,000 for the facility.

Then, in the first quarter of Friday's game, he suffered the finger injury. The X-rays afterward found no broken bones, but Bryant said it was difficult to hold a basketball.

"It was numb for about 20 minutes," Bryant said.

That contributed to a subpar offensive game for Bryant, who scored nine points on 3-for-11 shooting from the field. He added four rebounds and four assists in a little less than 36 minutes.

While Bryant was excited to extend the Lakers' win streak to four games and snap the Sixers' string at three, he had the same reaction as the rest of the crowd when Eagles quarterback Michael Vick entered the arena and walked to his seat late in the third quarter.

The crowd exploded with cheers.

Athletes usually act oblivious to anything that isn't happening on the court, but not this time, not this performer.

"The whole place went bananas, and I was one of them," Bryant said. "Everybody knows I am a Yankees fan and get a lot of [grief] for that, but I love my Eagles just like everybody else."

And he was thrilled to see the reception Vick received.

"That was unbelievable, and it felt great to see that great moment," he said.

Of course, it was nothing like the reception for Bryant. Boos rained down during the pregame introductions.

Still, Bryant said he always enjoys coming home. That was definitely the case for Thursday's dedication ceremony at his alma mater.

"It was great," he said. "On a personal level, I saw how excited the kids were at the school, and it's all for them."

Though Bryant usually doesn't receive a warm reception in Philadelphia, Sixers coach Doug Collins is in his corner.

"When I coached Michael [Jordan], I felt Michael was the most fundamentally sound player in the game," Collins said before Friday's game. "Watching Kobe, coaching against him, and broadcasting, I feel Kobe Bryant now is the most fundamentally sound player in the game."

It all starts with the feet.

"Their footwork is impeccable," Collins said of Jordan and Bryant. "There is no wasted motion."

Collins called Jordan and Bryant mirror images of each other.

"Michael and Kobe are not only the best offensive players at their position in their generations, but they are also the best defensive players," Collins said. "To be that says it all - they are playing at both ends."

This year, Bryant is playing less but still scoring. He is averaging 26.1 points in a little more than 33 minutes per game.

"His offensive game will always be there," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He could probably play on a wheelchair, actually."

That might be stretching it, but on a night when his finger and offense were hurting, the Lakers (20-7) showed why they are the two-time defending NBA champions.

Bryant couldn't have been happier, to win the game and take a backseat to an Eagles quarterback who created the biggest commotion.


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225

or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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