Portland's Jusuf Nurkic has been slammed by NBA fans after a bizarre moment of 'disrespect' after the Los Angeles Lakers first game since the death of Kobe Bryant.
Damian Lillard led the Blazers to victory in an emotionally-charged match that honoured Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others that died in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday.
‘NOT CERTIFIED’: Disturbing details about helicopter in Kobe Bryant tragedy
Lillard, who top-scored with 48 points, was speaking to a reporter after the match about the heartbreaking scenes the game was played under in the wake of Bryant's death.
"I think everyone had a lot of emotions coming in and then the videos, the music, it was one of those moments," Lillard began saying.
"It was one of our legends, icons in the world not just our game passing away," he added before Nurkic - who could be seen lurking in the background - interrupted the interview.
It was unclear what Nurkic said to the camera but the timing and the joking nature of his interjection left viewers incensed.
Given the context by which Lillard was in the middle of paying tribute to Bryant’s legacy, fans felt it was highly disrespectful of Nurkic to interrupt him.
Dame on honoring Kobe and dropping 48 PTS: “The one thing that we know for sure we had in common with Kobe: the love of this game, and we here so we might as well come out and honor him this way." pic.twitter.com/JPPWWk8Bpx— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 1, 2020
Jusuf Nurkic is so damn disrespectful— [ r ] 🇬🇹 (@GRANA2___) February 1, 2020
Nurkic just interrupt Lillard while he’s talking about Kobe wtf is wrong with that dude? #disrespectful— bwhit304 (@bwhit304) February 1, 2020
NURKIC IS A CLOWN— NURKIC IS A CLOWN (@fam199924) February 1, 2020
I instantly hate Nurkic— RB (@rb82_) February 1, 2020
That would be Jusuf Nurkic, who just won the award for biggest clown in the NBA.— Ben Johnson (@bljgolf) February 1, 2020
I find it disrespectful that Nurkic video bombing post game interview trying to be funny after an emotional game. Not the time to do that tbh. 🤦🏻♂️ https://t.co/HyvVY8YQ14— RJ Agpalo (@retrojays_94) February 1, 2020
Damn shame this interview is cut short because of Jusuf Nurkic— johnny (@screwtapez) February 1, 2020
LeBron tribute to Kobe leaves players and fans in tears
Both teams stood on the court during a poignant pregame tribute to Bryant including songs, Kobe highlights and a stirring speech by LeBron James. Highlights of Bryant's career played during every break, but Lillard put on a show between the whistles.
The ceremony began in a darkened arena with Usher singing “Amazing Grace.” Staples Center then showed a video of Bryant's highlights narrated by his own voice.
James then took the microphone, discarded his prepared speech and commanded the crowd with stirring words from the heart. James joined the Lakers in 2018, and he spoke to Bryant several hours before the crash when Kobe congratulated LeBron on moving past him into third place on the NBA's career scoring list.
“So in the words of Kobe Bryant, 'Mamba out,'" James said. "But in the words of us, ‘not forgotten.’ Live on, brother.”
"So in the words of Kobe Bryant, 'Mamba Out,' but in the words of us, 'Not forgotten.' Live on, brother."— ESPN (@espn) February 1, 2020
—LeBron James during the Lakers' tribute to Kobe pic.twitter.com/qQTHrirN6t
Lakers public address announcer Lawrence Tanter then introduced each of the Lakers' five starters as Kobe Bryant, drawing tears and cheers from the sellout crowd.
The Lakers, the Clippers and the NHL's Kings all lost their first games at Staples Center after the death of Bryant, who played his final 17 seasons in the downtown arena.
Lillard lifts Trailblazers to emotional win
Lillard played through the basketball world's collective heartbreak with his own remarkable effort.
The Portland star hit seven 3-pointers and added 10 assists and nine rebounds in a phenomenal performance that sent the Blazers to a win over an opponent still dealing with the trauma of the helicopter crash five days earlier.
“Nobody is going to win tonight,” Lillard told ESPN during the game. “Kobe is gone. His family isn't going to get him back. This is just basketball.”
Lillard's seven 3-pointers gave him 40 in his last five games, setting an NBA record. But even the Blazers star knew results were secondary this time.
James had 22 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Anthony Davis had 37 points and 15 boards in the Lakers' first game since last Saturday.
Hassan Whiteside scored 30 points, and C.J. McCollum added 19 for the Blazers.
The entire evening was likely both profoundly painful and cathartic for anyone who loves the Lakers or Bryant, who won five championships while playing his entire 20-year NBA career in purple and gold.
Bryant retired in 2016, but he remained a franchise icon and an inspiration to the current players, who learned about his death on their plane ride home from an East Coast road trip. Their next game against the Clippers was postponed, and the Lakers franchise persevered through a brutal week of coping with the loss.
The Lakers finally got back to basketball after a pregame ceremony honoring Bryant's life and his impact on basketball. Several Lakers teared up during the ceremony, as did the Blazers — but after both teams took 24-second and 8-second violations off the opening tip, they lifted the heavy moment with grace.
Davis began the game with red eyes, but managed to score 18 points in the first quarter alone. The Lakers committed 13 turnovers in the first half while playing with an obvious surfeit of energy.
Lillard, the gifted California native, went wild in the third quarter, scoring 23 points and hitting six 3-pointers in a virtuoso display of offensive skill.
The Lakers then trailed by 12 in the fourth quarter before a “Kobe! Kobe!” chant broke out. They promptly made a 9-0 run, but the Blazers stayed steadily ahead.