SALT LAKE CITY — Kobe Bryant watched intently before breaking out a smile as the Utah Jazz played a tribute video for his final game in Salt Lake City Monday night.
The video featured moments throughout the years of Bryant playing against the Jazz in meaningful games while fans said how much they respected his game, albeit playing the villain role.
"(It was) a little nostalgic," the soon-to-be-retired Los Angeles Lakers guard said. "I remember those moments. I remember those games. I remember walking into this building and feeling the intensity in the air — feeling the pressure of the playoffs. I remember it like it was yesterday."
Bryant received cheers with a spattering of boos during player introductions. Cheers roared as he ran up and hugged Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller, who was sitting courtside, after being introduced. The boos grew louder once Bryant touched the ball for the first time Monday night and gradually turned more lenient as the Jazz pulled away in the game.
With only a handful of games left in his career, Bryant said each farewell he's received from opposing fans has grown on him, and it grows more emotional as his final game, also against the Jazz, nears April 13 in Los Angeles.
"It's kind of an accumulation of all the games, all the boos, and it's like when you come to the end and you just have mutual respect for each other," he said.
As for Vivint Arena and the Jazz fans? One reporter asked to describe Jazz fans in one word. "Passionate," he said. Prior to that, he said he'd miss the environment at Jazz games.
"This building is special," he said. "There's so many memories just walking in. The bus pulling into the tunnel and getting out and walking these halls and obviously getting on the court, but just the entire environment — just so many memories.
"For the fans here, I think it's even more special because of the rivalry, because of the battles, because of the love-hate relationship between us both. At the end, it's hard to say goodbye to that."