'Heart-wrenching': Players in tears during 'incredible' in-game tributes to Kobe Bryant

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

The NBA world was sent into shock on Sunday afternoon when news of the sudden and tragic death of legendary player Kobe Bryant in a helicopter accident was reported and confirmed.

Sunday’s game between the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs went on as scheduled despite the league-wide mourning, and the players involved found a way to honour the memory of Bryant after the opening tip.

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Following a moment of silence from the arena presentation, players from both teams stood still and allowed the 24-second shot clock expire on their opening possessions after the tip-off, a nod to Bryant’s number 24 jersey.

The rest of the league did the same in subsequent games.

The Raptors and Spurs both got 24-second violations in honour of Kobe Bryant. Source: NBA

The sombre mood of the opening possessions likely reflected those of the players involved, many of whom shared personal connections to Bryant, as he served for 20 years as the face of the Los Angeles Lakers and basketball in California.

A number of players were seen in tears on and off the court.

Spurs star and Compton, California native DeMar DeRozan had signature sneakers as part of Bryant’s Nike shoe line.

Likewise, Raptors guard and San Diego California native Norm Powell is also famously influenced by Kobe, donning Bryant’s signature number 24 on his jersey.

Players like Tyson Chandler were unable to hide their grief during games.

Trae Young of the Hawks tearfully embraced his mother after warmups, prior to the Hawks taking on the Wizards.

Kobe and daughter killed in crash

As first reported by TMZ, nine people including Bryant were killed on Sunday after his private helicopter went down in Calabasas, about 65 kilometres northwest of Los Angeles.

There has also been confirmation that Bryant’s daughter Gianna Maria Onore was among those killed.

The NBA reportedly sent out an email to players and staff confirming both deaths.

Gianna is also a basketball player and coached by her dad. He credited her with getting him back into watching the game and they’ve been seen courtside and NBA and WNBA games over the past few months.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported sources that Bryant “was on his way to a travel basketball game with his daughter Gianna when the helicopter crashed. Those aboard the helicopter also included another player and parent.”

Bryant’s wife Vanessa is not believed to have been on board.

They had four children together - Natalia, 17, Gianna, 13, Bianka, 3, and newborn Capri.

The Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department responded to reports of a helicopter that crashed into a hillside and caught fire.

The crash was called in at 9:47am local time, and flames that spread a quarter acre were put out by 10:30am.

The fire department reported no survivors.

The helicopter was described as a Sikorsky S-76, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said.

With Yahoo Sports Canada