Kobe Bryant’s long, complicated relationship with the City of Brotherly Love came full circle Tuesday night, as The Black Mamba played against the Sixers for the final time in his 20-year career.

Philly paid tribute to Bryant with a moving video montage, and the crowd—the same folks whose lusty booing had Kobe chocking back tears while accepting the 2002 NBA All-Star Game MVP—showered him with plenty of appreciation throughout the evening.

Of course, it helped that the Sixers finally snapped their 18-game losing streak, taking down the Los Angeles Lakers 103-91.

Bryant started strong, but faded as the game progressed, finishing with 20 points on an ugly 7-of-26 clip from the field (including just four of seventeen from three-point land. Yikes.)

Per the Philly Daily News:

“Everytime I come here, there are fresh pretzels sitting on top of my locker,” Bryant said in a crowded pregame news conference. “Every year. And I’d always have my Larry’s cheesesteaks waiting for me after the game. That’s a ritual since I’ve been coming here. Scotty Rego and Lump (director of basketball administration Allen Lumpkin) always took care of me.”

 

Rego, who has been with the team since the late 1980s, has a long history with Bryant, dating back even before he was taken with the 13th overall pick in 1996. The relationship formed while Bryant was a star at Lower Merion. […] “When he was in high school – now the rules are different, I don’t think a high school kid would be able to do this – (Sixers coach) John Lucas invited him to work out with our guys at St. Joe’s. Then, our offices were at Vet Stadium, because we played at the Spectrum and the main place to work out was at St. Joe’s. So Kobe comes and starts working out with guys like Jerry Stackhouse, Vernon Maxwell, Shawn Bradley, Sharone Wright. He would work out, hone his skills. One time he took off from the foul line and tried to dunk over Sean Bradley in a 5-on-5 game. He missed the dunk, but Shawn Bradley had nothing to do with it. He only missed it, because he tried to throw it down so hard. I think he was a junior or senior at the time. He could hang with those guys.”

 

“It was close to the time he was going to make his decision (about turning pro or going to college),” Rego recalled. “It was after a workout and I have a hand truck full of cases of canned Gatorade to take down to our offices at Vet Stadium and I’m loading them into my car. He’s outside waiting for a ride, like a high school kid would, and the next thing I know, he’s grabbing the cases and loading up my car with the Gatorade. He then says to me, ‘You’ve been around for a long time. What do you think I should do?’ I had been around about eight or nine seasons then. So what I told him probably proved to be the beginning and the end of my scouting career. I told him he should go to college. My advice was to go for one year and at least live that college life, because once you turn pro, you’ll never get that. He still busts my chops about that.”