LA is a city in mourning. That much is clear.
As soon as I got off the plane at LAX, I knew that this city had lost a basketball son.
From the buses that have “RIP Kobe” as their destination to the murals and people that flooded the street outside of Staples Center honouring Kobe and of course Gigi and the others from that fatal and tragic crash last Sunday.
When you stepped inside the Staples Center, you knew this was his home. The seats all had t-shirts with his numbers, half had 8 and the other half 24. The court had his numbers etched on the floorboard. His jerseys were in the spotlight hanging from the ceiling. Lakers Nation is Kobe Nation. The Lakers came out all wearing 24 or 8 and were all introduced as a 6’6′ Guard from Merry-lands High School…Kobe Bryant. A bit of comedy on an otherwise very sombre affair.
The Lakers have not played a game since that tragic morning, with their previous clash against the Clippers being postponed. Tonight was their first game back after the Kobe tragedy.
But Frank Vogel has been checking in with the team all week. Vogel said “Our job is to manage our emotions and honour Kobe and honour Gianna in the right way”.
Terry Stotts said he was at a loss for words. He said: “The game will be the game, but the tribute before the game…we will all be fans of Kobe”.
The lights went down at Staples and the tribute begun.
A 8 and 24 floral arrangement centre stage. Then came Usher singing Amazing Grace, followed by one of the most moving tributes I have ever seen: A six minute tribute backed with violin for Kobe. All about his basketball and his family. Reliving the Mamba Mentality.
There was barely a dry eye at the end of this six minute video, the silence of Staples said it all.
Kobe arguably owned the 2000’s, but then he passed the torch to LeBron in the teens. So it was only right for LeBron to take the floor and say a speech for his brother Kobe Bryant. He threw away his script and spoke from the heart, honouring Kobe and what he had done for the Lakers.
Then begun the game.
A 24 second violation by the Lakers and an 8 second back court violation by the Blazers.
It was clear to see from the start of the game that the Lakers (as with the rest of the league) were shook by this tragic passing. But they played on. It was what Kobe would have wanted.
They harnessed their Mamba mentality just like Kobe did. After all, this is his and always will be his team.