NBA Players, Teams, and More Mourn and Pay Tribute to Kobe Bryant During Sunday's Games

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

kobe tribute

Image via Getty/Christian Petersen

kobe tribute

As news of Kobe Bryant’s passing rippled through the world on Sunday, many NBA players were left to process the news as they were readying themselves for Sunday’s games. The Houston Rockets were set to play against the Denver Nuggets, and the Toronto Raptors were to square off against the San Antonio Spurs.

Before the Nuggets-Rockets game—the first game of the day—the players bowed their heads for a moment of silence.

The Nuggets observe a moment of silence prior to the #Rockets game.

— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) January 26, 2020

P.J. Tucker’s shoes were emblazoned with the handwritten messages, “RIP KB” and “Love You KB24.”

P.J. Tucker wearing Kobe’s today with a written message

— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) January 26, 2020

Tyson Chandler was visibly grief-stricken over the loss of his former Team USA teammate. Austin Rivers was emotional as well.

Tyson Chandler clearly heartbroken. Not sure how these players are able to focus on the game. #Rockets

— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) January 26, 2020

Austin Rivers reacts to the news (via @NBATV)

— 3030 🇩🇴 (@jose3030) January 26, 2020

Houston Chronicle writer Jonathan Feigen tweeted about the game’s overall mood, writing, “Players are being pros. They know how to play and they are playing hard. In a lot of ways, it is impressive that they can. But there is no emotion. They are empty.”

Players are being pros. They know how to play and they are playing hard. In a lot of ways, it is impressive that they can. But there is no emotion. They are empty.

— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) January 26, 2020

To start the Raptors and Spurs game, both teams took “24-second violations in honor of Kobe Bryant,” Los Angeles Times' Dan Woike pointed out. A Kobe chant also broke out.

Powerful - Spurs and the Raptors both take 24-second violations in honor of Kobe Bryant

— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) January 26, 2020

Spurs do it too. Now it's a standing ovation.

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) January 26, 2020

Remarkable moment to start the Raptors-Spurs game.

— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 26, 2020

Both the @Raptors and the @spurs ran out the 24-second shot clock on their first possession of the game in honour of Kobe Bryant.

— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 26, 2020

they're chanting "kobe" in san antonio of all places. thats how much respect he has in the game of basketball.

— William Lou (@william_lou) January 26, 2020

The same tribute kicked off the start of the Knicks-Nets game.

Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie holds the ball for a 24-second violation on the opening possession of Knicks-Nets to honor Kobe Bryant. Elfrid Payton does the same on the Knicks’ subsequent possession. Chants of ‘Kobe’ fill the arena during the two possessions.

— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 26, 2020

Similar tributes were occurring across the league as Sunday's games unfolded.

𝟐𝟒 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐍𝐨. 𝟐𝟒

𝟖 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐍𝐨. 𝟖#RIPMAMBA

— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) January 26, 2020

Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving missed the game for what Shams Charania reported were "personal reasons." Charania also pointed out that Irving and Bryant were close.

Nets' Kyrie Irving will miss Sunday's game against New York due to personal reasons. Irving and Kobe Bryant shared a close friendship.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 26, 2020

Doc Rivers broke down while speaking about Kobe’s death, saying, “This is shocking news for all of us. I’m sorry I don’t have a lot to say. I have to go talk to a team before a game and tell them to play a game.”

Doc Rivers breaking down while trying to talk about Kobe's death was

— Gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 26, 2020

The National Basketball Players Association also released a statement, writing that they are “stunned and devastated by the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant. Words cannot express his impact on our Players, the NBA, and the game of basketball.”

NBPA Statement on the passing of Kobe Bryant

— NBPA (@TheNBPA) January 26, 2020

NBA commissioner Adam Silver also released a statement.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver statement on sudden death of Kobe Bryant.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 26, 2020

As did WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

Very heavy heart on loss of Kobe and his daughter and the others in the tragic crash today. Admired his Mamba mentality, and so grateful for Kobe’s support of the WNBA and girls basketball. Thoughts and prayers are with the Bryant family and other families impacted. #8 #24

— Cathy Engelbert (@CathyEngelbert) January 26, 2020

Here's the official statement from USA basketball.

The game has lost a real champion. Our thoughts & prayers go out to the Bryant family & the families of those lost today.

— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) January 26, 2020

Elsewhere, young basketball players mourned during the Kobe Bryant Calabasas Mamba Cup, which was canceled after the news of his death broke.

A photo from the #MambaCup in #calabasas Tenaya team was playing in #KobeBryant tournament that was cancelled right after they heard the news.@KSEE24

— Alexan Balekian (@RealALEXAN) January 26, 2020

And Brazilian soccer player Neymar honored Kobe by “raising the 24” after scoring a goal during a game.

Neymar honors Kobe after scoring tonight at Lille and raising the 24. A symbol of the collective grief pouring out around globe for Kobe and a reminder, as Larkin said “we should be careful of each other, we should be kind, while there is still time” 😢

— roger bennett (@rogbennett) January 26, 2020

A host of tennis superstars paid homage to Kobe, adding to a variety of tributes coming from outside the basketball world. Roger Federer wore a pair of customized sneakers that honored the late Laker. Nick Kyrgios wore Kobe's number 8 jersey during his Australian Open match against Rafael Nadal while the latter paid his respects by wearing a Nike Lakers hat. Doubles partners Coco Gauff and Caty McNally both had special messages written to Bryant on their shoes. Also, Naomi Osaka penned an open letter to Kobe on her social media. 

.@RafaelNadal pays tribute to the late Kobe Bryant.#AO2020 | #AusOpen

— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 27, 2020

Nick Kyrgios with a special tribute for Kobe today at the #AusOpen

— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) January 27, 2020

Both Coco Gauff and Caty McNally with odes to Kobe Bryant written on their shoes today for doubles at the #AusOpen. Nice tribute. Kobe spoke very highly of Coco during his visit to the US Open last summer

— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) January 27, 2020

This one is for Kobe ❤️ #MambaMentality

— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) January 27, 2020

I can’t.

— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) January 27, 2020

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who coached the USA team that Kobe played for in 2008, released a statement about "one of the greatest sports figures of our time."   

Coach K’s statement on the passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. Krzyzewski coached Kobe on the 2008 USA “Redeem Team” that won Olympic gold:

— Brendan Marks (@BrendanRMarks) January 26, 2020

After the Spurs game, head coach Gregg Popovich shared a few words about what made Bryant so memorable in his eyes.

“We all feel a deep sense of loss for what he meant to all of us in so many ways.”

Coach Pop on Kobe Bryant.

— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 26, 2020

Mark Cuban also announced that the Dallas Mavericks are retiring Kobe's no. 24.

Mark Cuban say no Maverick player will ever wear #24 again

— Robert Littal BSO (@BSO) January 27, 2020

Kobe's former Lakers coach Phil Jackson released a statement discussing his relationship with the Black Mamba which transcended the game of basketball.  

Statement from Phil Jackson: “The crash was a tragedy for multiple families. My heart goes out to Vanessa and the families that lost loved ones.Kobe was a chosen one-special in many ways to many people.Our relationship as coach/player transcended the norm.He went beyond the veil"

— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) January 27, 2020

The 41-year-old legend and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna died on Sunday in a helicopter crash.

Latest in Sports