The NBA decided to go through with its games on Sunday despite the news of Kobe Bryant’s death, his daughter’s and several others involved in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles County.
Whether you were watching the Pacers face the Blazers, Brooklyn vs. New York or the Celtics in their 123-108 loss to Zion Williamson and the Pelicans, it was evident everyone was thinking about Bryant’s passing. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' loss, click here.)
Bryant would’ve wanted everyone to play. Players expressed as much. But that didn’t make it any easier to play the game so many fell in love with because of him.
“It was different today,” Gordon Hayward told reporters in New Orleans. “I think being a father too, my heart is just broken, for his wife, his other daughters. I think everyone that’s a father understands that, or a mother, so it was difficult.”
The Celtics who spoke after Sunday’s game — Hayward, Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown — each had a lot to say about Bryant:
“I was lucky enough to play against him. I took a week out and went to Newport and trained with him. I still have all the emails saved. ... Growing up watching him, a lot of us in the NBA now watched him, idolized him.”
“When he was playing, I guarded him and I just remember the first time guarding him, in my mind, I was just in shock that I had the opportunity to guard Kobe. Just his presence was, I mean, you knew he was there. When he was on the floor, it didn’t matter how old he was, you were still in your shoes, on the back of your heels. It was just awesome. I’m still in shock. Words, I can’t even find them. My heart goes out to his family. This is hard. It’s tough for everybody.”
“I was blessed enough to meet Kobe at a young age when I was in high school. My high school, we were actually a Kobe team. Just to see him, his presence, had an impact on me. You just always knew how hard he worked. That was the biggest thing for me, his work ethic and his mentality about the game. That is what has inspired me the most, personally.”
“Well, to be honest, I stole his free throw routine. One, two, three, with the spin. Yeah, I was doing his free throw routine. Man, I’m at a loss for words, to be honest. But part of like why I picked up to play basketball was because of him. He inspired so much and I’m just so sad that I never got to shake his hand. That’s what kills me the most. I was looking forward to that day. I never got to meet Kobe Bryant, never got to play against him, but extremely inspired and honored to just be able to play and be able to celebrate his name.”
Brown also added, “It’s tough for all of us. I know it’s tough for Jayson (Tatum).”