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Sunday, February 10
Updated: February 14, 5:28 PM ET
Boo birds hurt Kobe's feelings in MVP performance

By Joe Lago

PHILADELPHIA -- The City of Brotherly Love showed little of that for Kobe Bryant on Sunday.
Kobe Bryant
Kobe grabs a rebound, one of five, during his MVP performance.

If it wasn't apparent before that Bryant is not a favorite son of Philadelphia, it is now. The local boy from Lower Merion High who made good got a reception worthy of J.D. Drew, not a hometown hero, despite scoring a game-high 31 points to earn MVP honors in the West's 135-120 win over the East in the NBA All-Star game.

Santa Claus getting booed at an Eagles game was nothing compared to the venom projected at Bryant all game long.

"I was pretty upset. Pretty hurt," Bryant said. "I just wanted to go out there and just play. Just play hard."

"I can just look at them being just diehard Sixers fans, I guess, being loyal to their team," he added.

This wasn't the first time Bryant found himself cast as public enemy No. 1 in Philly. He experienced the same unhospitality when his Los Angeles Lakers swept through town and blew away the 76ers in five games for their second straight NBA title last June.

During the finals, Bryant's comments that he was an L.A. guy were much publicized and drew the ire of Philly fans. Still, Bryant was mystified why he was mistreated on Sunday.

"Coming into today's game, I was a little worried about it," Bryant said of the boo birds. "I don't know, I mean, I don't know what to say. It was something that I can't really describe the feelings that I have when it happened. I'm happy to win MVP in Philadelphia. The booing was just hurtful. But it's not going to ruin this day for me."

Bryant attended Friday's media day by donning the 76ers jersey of his father, Joe "Jelly Bean" Bryant. With the local cameras focused on him, it was believed that perhaps the Philly fans would ease up on the kid.

Not a chance. The boos for Bryant began in pregame introductions and grew louder with every basket.

"I don't know why they did it," Sixers guard Allen Iverson said. "It's just something that you've got to deal with. I've been playing in Philly for six years and they boo us in the first quarter if things are not going right.

"You just have to handle it like a man and understand that everything is not always going to be peaches and cream (with the fans)."

Bryant's 23 points at the break came one point short of Glen Rice's All-Star scoring record for one half. He went into halftime with a flurry, scoring eight of the West's last 10 points in the final 1:47 -- including six straight -- to help build a 72-55 halftime lead.

The natives really got restless with Bryant in the second half. And even the PA announcer had contempt for Bryant, the exasperation growing in his voice as the game got out of hand.

Bryant didn't even need to score to get jeered. All he had to do was dribble the ball, and some fans cheered after every Bryant miss. The booing hit a crescendo when Bryant received the MVP award from commissioner David Stern after the game.

"Yeah, it was tough. We don't want anyone to get booed in an All-Star game," Sixers center Dikembe Mutombo said. "But when you play against the city of Philly or you come here, you don't say nothing about this town. They were just trying to give him payback from last year."

"I was trying to figure out if he's from here," Nets guard Jason Kidd said. "This is a tough city. I wouldn't say anything bad about this city."

The crowd's angry reception notwithstanding, Bryant says he still had a blast this weekend. He said he was looking forward to his next homecoming.

"I was sick the first night because I ate too many cheese steaks," Bryant said. "Tonight, I'm going to make sure I have some cheese steaks and TastyKakes on the plane coming back."

If the cheese steaks could talk, perhaps they would've booed Bryant, too.

Joe Lago is an NBA editor for

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