Given that it’s his last season in the NBA, Kobe Bryant has revealed his softer, gentler side, constantly smiling and joking around with opponents.

Not too long ago, this was unthinkable: Evan Turner, a 22-year-old rookie playing for the Philadelphia Sixers back in 2010, regaled reporters on the eve of Kobe’s final game in Boston with stories of the horror Bean once represented.

Bryant says he doesn’t want Celtics fans to display their typical animosity towards him tomorrow night in his final appearance in Beantown.

Per MassLive.com:

Not surprisingly, Turner is one of the many Boston Celtics who hold a deep respect for the Los Angeles Lakers legend. Isaiah Thomas studies Bryant’s mentality and used to wear the legend’s jersey as a kid. Avery Bradley said he’s happy he got a chance to step onto the same court as Bryant. Head coach Brad Stevens has heard players discussing a desire to learn as much from Bryant as they can.

 

Most of the Celtics are too young to have forged their own rivalries with Bryant. In a lot of cases, they sound more like his fans. […] “Certainly our focus can’t be on necessarily him. It’s gotta be on us, it’s gotta be on us playing well, it’s gotta be on us getting better,” Stevens said before practice Tuesday, one day before Bryant will make his final trip to the TD Garden before retiring at the end of the season. “But I don’t think there’s any question that all of our players respect and appreciate all that he’s accomplished as a player.”

 

“It’s just a blessing I got a chance to play at the highest level of the sport I love,” said Bradley, “and to play against the athletes I got a chance to play against. It’s crazy seeing them come and go but at the same time they brought so much to the game and you respect them even more the more years you get to know the preparation they had to have, the mindset they had to have every single day, and I appreciate all the guys that came before me.”