'Bigger than basketball': NBA stars lead on-court tributes to Kobe Bryant hours after icon's death (VIDEO)
It is rare, perhaps, to see such an outpouring of grief following the death of a former player but such was Kobe Bryant's standing in basketball - and in the global sports community as a whole - that an entire league appeared in mourning during Sunday evening's NBA fixtures, the first games to take place following the announcement of Bryant's death, along with that of his 13-year-old daughter and seven others, in a helicopter crash just hours earlier.Also on rt.com NBA legend Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash aged 41
Several teams opted to hold their first possession for 24 seconds, which is a foul in basketball, in a tribute to the player who wore the 24 jersey for the Lakers, while some others committed 8-second violations - 8 was the first jersey number that Bryant wore for Los Angeles during his 20 seasons with the team
Numerous players were visibly emotional on court, with Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young breaking down before the start of his team's game against the Washington Wizards. Young also changed his jersey number from 11 to 8 in honor of Bryant, who he said was his hero since he was a child.
Young scored 45 points and registered 11 assists, later tweeting: "Can’t make this up. He was with me tonight."
Bigger than basketball. Rest In Peace, 24 🙏 pic.twitter.com/oL4ERWEx4m— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 26, 2020
The emotional scenes in basketball stadia across the United States echoed those being felt by sports fans across the globe. Several tributes appeared across the United States, including at Madison Square Garden where fans collected to pay their respects ahead of the game between the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets.
The outer walls of the arena were colored in the Lakers' traditional purple and gold.
Both teams again observed the 24-second shot clock violation at the beginning of the game in tribute to Bryant, as echoes of "Kobe! Kobe!" reverberated around the arena.Also on rt.com 'Please God no, it can't be true': Sports world in shock after death of 'global icon' Kobe Bryant
Meanwhile, the usually ice-cool Kahwi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers, could barely contain his emotions when asked about Bryant following his game.
"Oh man, everybody's sad," he said Fox Sports West. "Words can't explain the impact he had on this floor, the emotional impact he had on everybody."
San Antonio Spurs veteran coach Gregg Popovich, a man who has coached against Bryant on dozens of occasions, summed it up following his team's defeat to the Toronto Raptors.
"Good game, tough loss, who cares?" he said.