The atmosphere was noticeably somber as the New Orleans Pelicans played host to the Boston Celtics, joining the league in reflecting on the life of Kobe Bryant.
Yesterday afternoon, the New Orleans Pelicans were tasked with playing a basketball game just a few hours following the sudden death of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers of his helicopter flight to the Mamba Sports Academy.
While the team played host to and defeated the Boston Celtics by a 123-106 margin, minds were clearly elsewhere as the stadium continually cheered “Kobe, Kobe” in honor of the 41-year-old legend.
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020
Prior to opening tip, the New Orleans Pelicans players each took the court for pregame festivities wearing pairs of Kobe Bryant’s signature Nike sneaker.
When the game itself tipped, the Pelicans and Celtics joined the other 16 teams playing on Sunday afternoon in dribbling out the 24-second shot clock, representing the number Kobe iconically wore from 2007 through the end of his career.
The New Orleans Pelicans release their team statement following Kobe’s passing just minutes before the opening tip.
Joining the rest of the league and its 30 teams in sharing some words in honor of the late legend, the New Orleans Pelicans’ organization released their thoughts on Kobe.
“The New Orleans Pelicans join the basketball world in mourning the tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. Kobe’s transcendent performance on the court and fierce competitiveness inspired millions of fans around the world. We will always remember him as one of the game’s greatest players and his legacy as a global ambassador of the league will live on forever.
The Pelicans organization sends our deepest condolences to his wife, Vanessa, their family, and the Lakers organization,” the team released in a statement on their website.
Former Lakers’ players Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball ink sneakers with messages for Kobe, Lonzo touches on Kobe’s legacy among young players.
While Ingram didn’t make any public statements following Kobe’s passing, there was a clearly somber look on his face as the team took the opening tip against Boston.
Josh Hart, on the other hand, was one of the first to react to the gut-wrenching news via Twitter and would then go own to wear a pair of Bryant’s Nike sneakers during the game with “legends are forever” inked onto the side.
Rip to a legend man… #Mamba
— Josh Hart (@joshhart) January 26, 2020
New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart wears shoes honoring the late Kobe Bryant before a game against the Boston Celtics.
— PelicansHoops (@PelicansHoops) January 26, 2020
While Lonzo Ball dealt with an at-times contentious relationship with Kobe Bryant due to both of their standings with the Los Angeles Lakers, Ball seemed pretty torn by the future Hall-of-Famer’s passing.
Lonzo Ball with messages on his shoes tonight including RIP Gianna as well as an 8 and 24 on the back for Kobe. pic.twitter.com/DZCTdTakPW
— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) January 26, 2020
After posting 9 points, 15 assists, and 6 rebounds in an impassioned effort against the Celtics, Lonzo shared his feelings about Kobe’s relationship being akin Michael Jordan among today’s young people.
“Kobe was my generation’s Michael Jordan if you think about it,” Ball told ESPN’s Andrew Lopez.
J.J. Redick offers his best wishes to the Bryant family.
Playing against Kobe in the 2009 NBA Finals as a member of the Orlando Magic, Redick gave some quick comments in reaction to the death of a scoring pioneer.
“I just want to send my condolences to the Bryant family, obviously they won’t hear this but it’s a sad day for the NBA. Kobe was one of the greatest players and ambassadors for our game and it’s a sad day for all of us,” J.J. Redick said to Caroline Gonzalez on his exit radio interview.
Los Angeles native Jrue Holiday reflects on the city’s icon.
One of the kids who grew up in Los Angeles, getting a first-chance account of the greatness exuded by Kobe Bryant, Jrue Holiday was happy the Pelicans could get a win to honor his legacy.
“I guess in my heart, Kobe would want us to beat the Celtics, so that was a good win,” Holiday said to reporters following the game.
Many will recall the many iconic duels, including two NBA Finals, between Bryant’s Lakers and the team’s historic rivals in Boston.
Zion admits it wasn’t easy to focus.
Winning the first NBA game of his career, Zion Williamson was among the many players yesterday who was rattled following the death of a player who grew up watching.
While Williamson finished with a very impressive 21 points and 11 rebounds, he admitted that his mind had a hard time trying to ignore the notion of Bryant and his daughter tragically passing yesterday afternoon.
Zion Williamson gives his thoughts on Kobe Bryant’s passing. Said it was hard to focus when the game started tonight. pic.twitter.com/LuxLvVcyje
— Will Guillory (@WillGuillory) January 27, 2020
Among a projected next wave of stars, Zion Williamson is one of the players who are in a league designed for players like him; certainly, Kobe Bryant’s superstar status helped cements the NBA as a superstar league.
Throughout the pre-draft process leading to the selection of Williamson, Kobe Bryant had nothing but glowing things to offer in terms of wisdom and commentary on the potential generational star.
A broken-hearted Alvin Gentry closes his postgame comments early but reflects heavily on Bryant.
One of the league’s longtime personalities, Alvin Gentry has been around the NBA long enough to feel the complete effect Kobe Bryant had on not only the sport but the industry as a whole. Gentry was the first voice from the organization to speak and he was clearly feeling the effect.
Before the game, Gentry shared that the team was pretty crushed by the death, though they had to focus on the challenge at hand, which was playing the Boston Celtics.
Alvin Gentry addresses the passing of Kobe Bryant pic.twitter.com/ZnknqLAdZD
— Will Guillory (@WillGuillory) January 26, 2020
Gentry even mentioned that his son was one of the thousands gathered outside of the Staples Center to commemorate Bryant’s life.
Alvin Gentry says his son Jack is one of the thousands of people at Staples Center right now.
“Since he was 7 years old, Kobe was his guy.”
— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) January 27, 2020
While Gentry was available for his standard post-game media commentary, he got through things pretty quickly, though it was probably for the best.
“Thanks guys. I’m sorry. I wish I had more for you, but it’s been a tough tough day,” Alvin Gentry said to conclude his postgame media availibility.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ coach was clearly emotional throughout the day and in comments with reporters. Like many of us, he’ll probably be finding a way to spend some time with his family and reflect on the preciousness of life.
Yesterday was one of the toughest days in the history of the game of basketball and Kobe Bryant’s legacy will be forever carried on in the sport.
While it seemed somewhat surprising that the league carried out its regular slate of games on Sunday afternoon, it’s great that the New Orleans Pelicans got a chance to pay hefty tribute to Kobe Bryant on their home floor. Certainly, there’s still plenty of grieving left to do, but a Smoothie King Center crowd at least got to do some of that around the game of basketball.