NBA

Bill Russell paid tribute to Kobe Bryant before the NBA season began

"Thinking of my friend."

Bill Russell and Kobe Bryant were very close. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

As the NBA season kicks off Tuesday, it does so for the first time in decades without Kobe Bryant as a guiding light.

Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash at age 41 in January, has continued to influence those in the basketball world even after his passing.

Celtics legend Bill Russell, who developed a close bond with the longtime laker Bryant, paid tribute to his friend on social media.

“Thinking of my friend #Kobe,” Russell wrote, posing with a Bryant jersey and KB hat and tagging the NBA, Lakers, and Celtics.

Bryant made it clear over the years that the feeling was mutual.

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“He has been an unbelievable mentor,” Bryant said of Russell in 2016. “Especially from the standpoint of leadership and understanding groups, team dynamics and some of the experiences that he went through and how he was able to manage some of the teams that he played on, the difficulties he might have faced. He’s been an invaluable voice in my ear.”

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