Despite some speculation that Sunday night’s games might be cancelled in the wake of Kobe Bryant‘s death, the NBA moved forward with those contests. Moments of silence were held before the games, eight- and 24-second violations were committed in Bryant’s honor, and many players admitted to being preoccupied with thoughts of the longtime Lakers star.
Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, who played on multiple Team USA squads with Bryant, said that basketball “was the furthest thing on my mind,” but that he believed Kobe would have wanted him to play, per Jason Quick of The Athletic.
“This probably was the hardest game I ever had to play,” Anthony said after scoring 14 points in the Blazers’ home win over Indiana. “Just uh … I don’t know … whoooo. It was tough. It was tough.”
Kyrie Irving, who was held out of Sunday’s Nets contest in New York for “personal reasons,” was said to be devastated by the death of Bryant, who had been his idol growing up, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post details. According to Lewis, Irving left the arena altogether after hearing the news.
“I was with him. I’ll keep [the scene] private, but they were very close,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said of Irving. “Tough, tough, tough, tough times.”
There were “heavy hearts” in the other Madison Square Garden locker room as well, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, who suggests that many Knicks players didn’t feel like going forward with the game.
“Somebody said to me earlier, ‘Superman is not supposed to die,'” Knicks forward Marcus Morris said. “And to us, he was Superman. I just feel sorry for his family. And the other passengers on there, I feel sorry for their families. It’s just a tough day.”
Blake Murphy of The Athletic provides a look at the Spurs and Raptors players who were heartbroken by the news, while Chris Kirschner of The Athletic looks at the reaction of Hawks guard Trae Young, who received a congratulatory FaceTime call from Kobe and his daughter Gianna after he was named an All-Star starter. Young, who began the game wearing a No. 8 jersey, became the first player to record a 45-point double double on fewer than 25 field goal attempts since Bryant did it in 2006.
- According to a report from CBS Los Angeles, the nine people who were killed in Sunday’s helicopter crash have all been identified. Several of those victims have since been profiled by various outlets, with Alden Gonzalez of ESPN discussing Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, Scott Gleeson of USA Today writing about girls basketball coach Christina Mauser, and Molly Knight of The Athletic remembering Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gigi Bryant.
- More details are emerging on the circumstances surrounding Sunday’s crash, according to Paula Lavigne of ESPN, who writes that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopters on Sunday morning due to foggy conditions. It remains to be seen whether those visibility issues were the reason for the crash, and the full investigation may take weeks, writes Mark Medina of USA Today.
- Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times explore how Lakers players reacted to the death of the franchise legend.
- Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, who was one of a handful of full-time Lakers beat writers during Kobe’s early years, examines how Bryant evolved into an NBA icon.
- The list of current players who looked up to Bryant and counted on him for advice is long, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic, who notes that LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard were among the superstars who fit that bill.
- An ESPN report details the worldwide impact of Bryant’s death, sharing reactions from around Europe and Asia.