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26 Feb 2020 14:01
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  •   Home > News > International

    NBA games go ahead despite Kobe Bryant's death, with players and fans paying tribute

    Scheduled NBA games went ahead following news of Kobe Bryant's death, leaving seasoned players in tears on the sidelines and others paying tribute on the court.


    The news of basketball legend Kobe Bryant's death came minutes before tip-off at several NBA games, leaving seasoned players in tears on the sidelines and others paying tribute on the court.

    The 41-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers guard and five-time NBA champion was travelling with eight other people — including his 13-year-old daughter — in his private helicopter when it crashed in Calabasas, California, killing all on board.

    The decision to continue the games has attracted criticism, with some people labelling it a mark of disrespect and unfair to players who may have wished to mourn.

    However, some NBA stars have defended the decision, saying it is what Bryant himself would have wanted.

    "Knowing him personally, I know he would have wanted me to come out here and try to ball and still just be great and that's what I tried to do tonight," LA Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard said through tears.

    In Portland, Damian Lillard scored 50 points in a win over Indiana and credited Bryant as "the toughest competitor to ever play this game".

    "That's what he would want us all to do … to continue to play the game that we all love and honour his competitiveness," Lillard said.

    "It hurt all of us. Some of our peers played with Kobe … and younger guys looked up to him. He's a hero. We looked up to him. I looked up to him."

    Tributes to 'Black Mamba' on and off court

    Many of the games have incorporated tributes to Bryant, who was widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

    At the Raptors-Spurs game in San Antonio, both teams agreed to take 24-second violations from the tip-off — holding the ball for the allotted time and allowing a turnover — in honour of Bryant's number 24.

    Throughout the game, the crowd chanted Bryant's name.

    After the game, legendary Spurs coach Gregg Popovich spoke to the media

    "Good game, tough loss, who cares," he said.

    "We all think about the family and the process that they're going to be going through now and that's where all our thoughts should be."

    At the start of the Atlanta Hawks-Washington Wizards game, the Hawks' first play was an eight-second backcourt violation and the Wizards' first was a 24-second violation. Bryant wore number eight as well as 24.

    Hawks star Trae Young was one of Gianna Bryant's favourite players. He started the game in number eight rather than his usual number 11 and struggled to hold back tears after the game as he recounted the last conversation he had with Kobe.

    "He was just telling me how much he's seen my game progress," Young said.

    "Just being happy for me [and] saying how proud he was of me and how he wants me to continue to be a role model for kids growing up and for GiGi and all the kids looking up to me.

    "To continue to play my heart out — that's one of the last things he said to me."

    Houston Rocket player Tyson Chandler was visibly upset courtside as his team played the Nuggets in Denver.

    Fellow Rockets player Russell Westbrook could be seen sobbing and shaking his head while his team observed a moment of silence prior to their game against the Denver Nuggets.

    PJ Tucker, also of the Rockets, wrote a tribute to Bryant in marker on his shoes, with "Love you KB24" and "RIP KB" on one side and "there will never be another" on the other.

    Elsewhere, Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said they would retire Bryant's number 24 jersey.

    The New York Knicks held a moment of silence before their game against the Brooklyn Nets.

    Fans congregated outside the Staples Centre, home venue of the LA Lakers, to pay tribute, chanting "thank you Kobe".

    The makeshift vigil forced LA Police to remind fans they would not be able to access the arena, with music awards ceremony the Grammys being held at the venue.

    Inside the venue, Grammys host Alicia Keys told the Staples Centre audience they were "literally standing here, heartbroken, in the house that Kobe Bryant built", as several other performers paid tribute to the Lakers great.

    Lakers star LeBron James was seen crying and hugging people after touching down in Los Angeles on Sunday.

    Bryant's death also sent shockwaves through the greater sporting world, with fellow sporting greats such as golfer Tiger Woods paying tribute to the former NBA star.

    Fans at the National Football League (NFL) Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida, also began chanting "Kobe" after a moment of silence was held at the start of the game.

    © 2020 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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