With everyone mourning the death of Kobe Bryant, the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs made sure to honour his memory to start their game.
Players on both teams were clearly emotional when they made their way onto the court with the news breaking shortly before Sunday’s game in San Antonio. So in a fitting way, both teams took the time to pick the perfect way to honour his memory.
After grabbing the opening tipoff, Fred VanVleet held the ball letting the 24-second shot clock count all the way down with the Spurs returning as a tribute to Bryant wearing No. 24 when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers.
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The touching gesture received a standing ovation from the crowd and was shared all over social media as many were left heartbroken by the news of Bryant’s shocking death in a helicopter crash. His 13-year-old daughter Gianna was also among the victims that did not survive the crash.
Many wondered whether both teams should have been playing the game which is a tough situation considering the emotions involved. There are many players and people on both teams who were inspired by Bryant especially former Raptor, DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan made it no secret how much he admired Bryant and how the Lakers legend shaped the way he played. To no surprise, the Compton, Calif., native was also consoled by Spurs head coach Greg Popovich before the game.
What stands out about this news is not only how people in the basketball world are paying tribute to Bryant but also how the rest of the world is taking the time to offer their condolences. This just goes to show how much Bryant’s reach was more than just about what he did on the court.
Whether you think Bryant is a top player of all-time or not, you can’t take away his accomplishments which should leave no doubt about his impact. His tragic death shouldn’t add or take away from that and if you want to argue that, we can save that for another time.
His 81-point game which is a memory many won’t soon forget including Raptors fans. In times like these, you can only hope that there will be more ways for the NBA to pay tribute to his memory especially on Jan. 28 when the Lakers host the Clippers in the first game at Staples Center.
You can bet there will be more tears shed and tributes pouring in. It is only fitting that someone who had captivated the NBA for 20 seasons will continue to do so even though he is no longer with us.
RIP Black Mamba.