Fans, players remember NBA legend Kobe Bryant ahead of Celtics’ first game since the crash

BOSTON — At the Celtics’ first game since the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, fans and athletes alike remembered and honored the 18-time All-Star NBA player.

After news surfaced of Kobe’s death, local athletes, celebrities and even lawmakers, along with fans, mourned the loss of the NBA giant, but at Thursday’s game, the pain felt real as fans walked into the TD Garden for a game for the first time since the crash.

A number of fans were seen carrying flowers and trinkets that were laid out in a section of the TD Garden as a sort of small shrine to the man who brought so much to a game loved by billions around the world.

Thursday night’s game was a January regular season game against the team with the worst record in the NBA, but still will go down as one to remember.

Fans were seen wearing not only their classic Celtics green clothing, but many also donned purple and yellow, some making references to the number 24, a nod to Kobe’s jersey number.

“There’s no place around Massachusetts to get any Lakers gear so we went to Joannes’ Fabric and got some purple and gold and stitch eight and 24,” said Jim Marnell. “Props to Mom for that. I wanted to show that I was missing him and thinking of his family and the families of all the victims.”

The top of the escalator at the TD was lit up in purple to honor the late Laker’s legend. Cards and memorabilia were also placed around the Garden on the way in as a tribute to Kobe, a memorial that has been growing all night.

One other thing making tonight special is that, one of the players who idolized Kobe, Jayson Tatum, made his first all-star selection tonight. Tatum met him at a young age, stayed in contact and took time to work out with him once Kobe retired. He will join Kemba Walker for the all-star game in Chicago.

Kobe Bryant was killed after the helicopter he was in with eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, crashed in Calabasas, California on Sunday morning. There were no survivors.