NBA Suspends Basketball Season After Player Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Angel Rodriguez #13 of the Austin Spurs handles the ball against Devontae Cacok #12 of the South Bay Lakers on March 11, 2020 at UCLA Heath Training Center in El Segundo, California.  Adam Pantozzi / NBAE / Getty Images / AFP
Angel Rodriguez #13 of the Austin Spurs handles the ball against Devontae Cacok #12 of the South Bay Lakers on March 11, 2020 at UCLA Heath Training Center in El Segundo, California. Adam Pantozzi / NBAE / Getty Images / AFP

 

The NBA suspended the season Wednesday after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the new coronavirus, prompting a game to be abandoned just before tip-off.

The test result was reported as Utah’s game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City was about to begin. The game was abruptly postponed and the players were effectively quarantined in the locker room area.

The league said the affected player, believed to be French defensive standout Rudy Gobert, was not at the arena and was being treated by health officials in Oklahoma City.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Jazz issued a statement saying the player had flu-like symptoms but initially tested negative for influenza and a respiratory infection.

The decision was made to test again for COVID-19, for which he tested positive.

“A preliminary positive result came back right before tip-off of the Utah Jazz-Oklahoma City game,” the Jazz statement said. “The decision was correctly made by the NBA to postpone the game.”

The league and the team have declined to name the player, but Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone told reporters he believed it was Gobert, who was listed first as questionable for the game and then as out with illness.

“Rudy Gobert. You think it is not going to affect us, we are NBA,” said Malone. “One of our players has the coronavirus.

“Who knows what that means for their team and the other teams that have been with them.”

‘This is crazy’

Gobert angered members of the Jazz media on Monday when he deliberately touched every microphone at a news conference, in what appeared to be a show of bravado about the disease.

Team owners had been discussing Wednesday how the league should respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Dallas owner Mark Cuban was sitting courtside at the Mavericks’ game against the visiting Nuggets when he got the news on his phone.

“I thought this is crazy. It can’t be true,” Cuban said. “It is like out of a movie. Unreal.”

Upon learning the season was being suspended, Cuban immediately walked over to the bench to let the team officials know.

“It is not about basketball and money. This is exploding to the point where I think about the families. We are making sure we are doing this the right way,” he said.

“The idea that a couple of players have it… it is stunning.”

Earlier NBA team owners and league officials had been wrestling with how to manage in the face of the outbreak, considering not only postponing games, but also playing in empty arenas.

The Golden State Warriors had confirmed they would host the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday in San Francisco behind closed doors after San Francisco city officials announced a two-week ban on all gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

The league-wide decision was made after the confusing scenes in Oklahoma City, where Jazz and Thunder players took the court to warm up, but shortly before the scheduled tip-off were sent to their locker rooms and police began to clear the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Fans were told only that the game was postponed due to “unforeseen circumstances” before they were herded out of the arena.

Gobert’s teammate Emmanuel Mudiay was also listed as suffering from an undisclosed illness on the team’s injury report.

‘Unprecedented’

Six NBA games were scheduled for Wednesday. Four were underway when the game in Oklahoma City was called off, and a later game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Kings was also cancelled. The decision was made because one of the officials had worked a Utah game earlier in the week.

“It’s unprecedented,” Detroit coach Dwayne Casey — whose Pistons fell to the 76ers in Philadelphia — said of the decision to suspend the season. “I think it’s the prudent thing to do.”

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the virus outbreak is much bigger than basketball.

“Stunned,” Spoelstra said after his team lost to the visiting Charlotte Hornets.

“It’s a very serious time right now. I think the league moved appropriately,” added Spoelstra.

Cuban said he was thinking of the safety and health of his family members.

“This is global pandemic. Peoples’ lives are at stake. I am more worried about my kids and my 82-year-old mother than when we play our next game.”

Cuban spoke directly to the Mavs’ players after the game, telling them to remain in Dallas and don’t invite friends in from out of town.

“We expect you to stay in Dallas and I was very specific to say who you talk to, is very important. Bringing people in from out of town because you have down time is not going to work.”

AFP

Coronavirus: LeBron James Says He Won’t Play Without Fans

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 03: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands on the court in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half at Staples Center on March 03, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images/AFP
Katelyn Mulcahy / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Basketball superstar LeBron James said Friday he won’t play if his Los Angeles Lakers have to hold games behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The NBA has reportedly told teams to look into strategies on how to play without fans in the arena amid concerns over the spreading virus.

“Nah. It’s impossible,” James said after the Lakers’ 113-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

“If I show up to the arena and there ain’t no fans in the crowd, then I ain’t playing.”

The league sent a memo to each team on Friday asking them to develop contingency plans to combat the spread of the virus. One of the alternatives is playing games behind closed doors.

“I ain’t never played the game without no fans,” James said. “Ever since I started. This ain’t Europe.

“I play for my teammates and I play for the fans. That’s what it is all about.”

READ ALSO: Alisson Ruled Out Of Liverpool’s Atletico Showdown

James and Anthony Davis scored all but one of the Lakers’ points in the final quarter Friday as they rallied to beat the NBA-leading Bucks and clinch their first playoff spot since 2013.

No High-Fives

As fears grow over the spread of the virus, and sports leagues formulate contingency plans, the NBA’s Friday memo told teams to start “developing” plans on how to play games with only “essential staff” in attendance, American sports broadcaster ESPN reported.

The NBA had sent out a previous memo to teams earlier this week, recommending players to use fist-bumps instead of high-fives with fans. It also said to avoid taking items such as pens, balls and jerseys from fans to sign.

“The health and safety of our employees, teams, players and fans is paramount,” the NBA said in a statement on Monday.

The NBA said it has been taking advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We are coordinating with our teams and consulting with the CDC and infectious disease specialists on the coronavirus and continue to monitor the situation closely.”

The global spread of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the international sporting calendar with Formula One motor racing, golf and athletics among the sports canceling or postponing events.

In Italy, the hardest-hit European country with 148 deaths from the novel coronavirus, all major sports events, including football matches, will be played behind closed doors until April 3. Six Nations rugby games in Italy have been postponed.

Davis Cup tennis ties in Italy and Japan are being played behind closed doors this weekend.

The World Health Organization has called the spread of the virus “deeply concerning” as a wave of countries reported their first cases of the disease — which has now killed nearly 3,500 people and infected more than 100,000 across 92 nations and territories.

AFP

NBA-Backed Africa League Postpones Launch Over Virus

Brian Babineau / NBAE / Getty Images / AFP

 

The launch of the inaugural Basketball Africa League has been postponed due to fears over the new-coronavirus outbreak, the NBA said in a statement on Tuesday.

The NBA-backed 12-team league had been due to tip off on March 13 in Dakar, Senegal but has now been put on hold due to health concerns.

The announcement came a day after Senegal confirmed its first case of COVID-19, only the second infection in sub-Saharan Africa.

READ ALSO: Juventus Semi-Final Clash Against AC Milan Postponed Over Coronavirus

Basketball Africa League President Amadou Gallo Fall confirmed the postponement in a statement released by the NBA.

“Following the recommendation of the Senegalese government regarding the escalating health concerns related to the coronavirus, the BAL’s inaugural season will be postponed,” Fall said.

“I am disappointed we are not able to tip-off this historic league as scheduled but look forward to the highly-anticipated launch of the BAL at a later date.”

Twelve club teams from across Africa had been due to participate in the league, which is backed by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the NBA.

It is the first time the NBA has helped organize a league outside North America.

AFP

Alleged Money Laundering: Trial Of NBA President Usoro To Continue Next Week

Court Adjourns Alleged N1.4bn Laundering Case Against Usoro, Others
NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, addressing a press conference in Abuja in December 2018.

 

A Federal High Court in Lagos has adjourned hearing in the alleged N1.4billion fraud case filed against President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro.

Usoro is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Rilwan Aikawa on 10 counts bordering on fraud.

At the resumed hearing on Monday, Justice Aikawa adjourned proceedings till Monday, March 9 after listening to arguments from the anti-graft agency and the defendants lawyer on the availability of certain documents,

READ ALSO: Imo Election: Supreme Court Set To Hear Ihedioha’s Application

Counsel to the NBA President, Offiong O. Offiong told the court that he had sent a subpoena to the EFCC requesting for certain documents which he says are necessary for him to cross examine the prosecution witness and prepare his defence.

In the absence of those documents, the counsel said he could not proceed with the cross examination of the witness.

Meanwhile, the Prosecuting Counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo told the court that he was not aware of the subpoena as it was not directed to him or served on him.

After arguments and counter arguments, the EFCC counsel assured the court that he would follow up and make the documents available so that the case can continue speedily.

Thousands Attend LA Memorial For Kobe Bryant, Daughter

People arrive to attend the “Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant” service at Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles on February 24, 2020. – Kobe Bryant, 41, and 13-year-old Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in the rugged hills west of Los Angeles on January 26. Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

Thousands of celebrities, athletes, family members and fans poured into the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday to honor basketball great Kobe Bryant, who died last month in a helicopter crash that also killed his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.

The public memorial — dubbed “A Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant” — is being held in the arena where Bryant wowed fans for nearly two decades while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 2/24 date for the memorial carries special significance as it coincides with Bryant’s jersey number — “24” — and Gianna’s “2” jersey number.

Fellow Laker legend Magic Johnson was among those attending the memorial, which is taking place just hours after the Lakers 114-112 win over the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on Sunday.

“It’s hard in a two-minute, five-minute time to say everything he meant to the world, to the NBA and to basketball fans. He’s bigger than life,” Johnson said ahead of the game on Sunday. “And it will take years to get over his passing and his daughter and the seven other people who lost their lives as well.”

Among other celebrities attending were filmmaker Spike Lee — who was close friends with Bryant and directed a documentary on his life — and rapper Snoop Dogg, an avid Lakers fan.

Many of the fans lucky enough to nab one of the much-sought after 20,000 tickets for the memorial wore the gold and purple colors of the Lakers as they headed for the two-and-a-half hour ceremony scheduled to start at 10 am (1800 GMT) amid tight security.

“Kobe meant everything for this city, for this team and for me,” said Karen Sanchez, 41, as she waited with friends to enter the arena. “I watched him play from the beginning.”

Marcos Rojas, 23, another ticketholder, said Bryant’s January 26 death near Los Angeles had been devastating to fans like him who worshipped the player.

“For me, it was like losing a friend,” said Rojas who wore a Lakers jersey with Kobe’s number.

“I always watched him playing with my friends,” he told AFP. “I always picked Kobe to play in my video games. I couldn’t leave home the day of his passing.”

Those attending the memorial were being given a 24-page program with pictures of Bryant and his family as well as a pin and black T-shirt featuring images of Kobe and his daughter on the back.

Some of the fans paid up to $224 a ticket.

AFP

NBA Names All-Star Award To Honour Kobe Bryant

In this file photo taken on November 21, 2015 Kobe Bryant (24) of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the Lakers NBA match up with the Toronto Raptors, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  Robyn BECK / AFP

 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that the All-Star Game MVP award will now be called the Kobe Bryant Award as players lined up to pay tribute to the late NBA icon on Saturday.

“Kobe Bryant is synonymous with NBA all-star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game,” Silver said. “He always relished the opportunity to compete with the best of the best and perform at the highest level for millions of fans around the world.”

Bryant and his daughter, Gigi, were buried in private funeral service in southern California last week after they were among nine people who perished in a horrific helicopter crash on January 26.

The uniforms for Sunday’s all-star game in Chicago will also honour Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter with LeBron James’ team wearing the No. 2 for the basketball-playing Gigi and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team wearing No. 24 in a tribute to Bryant.

Antetokounmpo was one of several all-stars who also spoke Saturday about their memories and the legacy that Bryant left behind.

“The format is amazing,” Antetokounmpo said. “It makes you want to play hard and compete against one another. Each quarter you have the opportunity to win, and it makes it way more competitive.

“But wearing 24 and LeBron wearing number two, it’s a big honour. I wouldn’t want it any other way representing Kobe and Gigi in tomorrow night’s game.”

Antetokounmpo described the four-time All-Star Game MVP Bryant as the “Michael Jordan of our generation.”

“A guy that mentored me in the last few years of my career, a guy that was always there for me,” Antetokounmpo said. “In the regular season, the playoffs, a guy that told me that whenever I need something, I could just reach out to him, and he was literally always there. If I needed something, he would text me back, call me.

“Growing up, he was my idol. He was one of those guys that gave back to the game so much, gave back to the players. A lot of people when they’re so great, they don’t do that.”

Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker said this is an emotional time for the NBA family not only because of the death of Bryant but also former commissioner David Stern, who died on New Year’s Day.

“With the tragic death of Kobe and Gigi and the rest of the families on the plane and David Stern, it’s definitely going to be a very emotional weekend, and we’re going to celebrate those guys and everyone else as best as we can,” Walker said.

“They meant so much to our game. They grew the game so much. We all just have a lot of respect for them.”

 Memorial service 

A public memorial service for Bryant will be held February 24 at Staples Center arena in downtown Los Angeles.

Also, Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones captured the Slam Dunk Contest by beating out Orlando Magic big man Aaron Gordon in a six-dunk display.

“It was great, a great competition,” said Jones, who won by one point.

Jones ran from the opposite three-point line and jumped from 13 feet and slammed in a left-handed dunk for his narrow victory.

Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield won the Three-Point Contest and Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo defeated Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis in the Skills Challenge.

AFP

Tributes Pour In For Kobe Bryant At NBA All-Star Game

 

Tributes to the late Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers legend who died last month in a helicopter crash, will play a major role in Sunday’s 69th NBA All-Star Game.

This year’s annual showcase of league talent will be played in Chicago and feature numerous nods to Bryant, a five-time NBA champion who also matched a league record with four NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player awards.

Bryant, an 18-time NBA All-Star, died at age 41 on January 26 in a crash near Los Angeles that also took the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.

All-Star teams guided by LeBron James of the Lakers and Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks will compete to win each of the first three quarters, which will all start 0-0 and last 12 minutes.

At the start of the fourth quarter, the clock will be turned off and a final target score will be established by taking the leading club’s cumulative score through the first three quarters and adding 24 points — the number representing the jersey number worn by Bryant for the final 10 seasons of his NBA career.

The first team to reach the cumulative target score will win the NBA All-Star Game.

All-Star Game jerseys will also honor Bryant and his daughter.

Team Giannis players will wear jersey number 24 in tribute to Kobe while Team LeBron players will wear jersey number two, the number his daughter wore when playing youth basketball.

Both teams will wear jersey patches displaying nine stars, representing the nine people who were killed in the crash.

Academy Award-winning actress and Grammy Award-winning singer Jennifer Hudson, a Chicago native, will perform a special tribute to Bryant, his daughter and the others who were killed in the crash. Her performance will begin the night ahead of the player introductions.

James and Antetokounmpo each chose their squads from available starters and reserves voted and selected to the All-Star contest.

Team LeBron starters will include James, his Lakers teammate Anthony Davis, NBA scoring leader James Harden of Houston, Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers and Slovenian guard Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks.

Team Giannis starters include the Greek big man, Cameroon stars Joel Embiid of Philadelphia and Pascal Siakam of Toronto and guards Kemba Walker of Boston and Trae Young of Atlanta.

A record eight All-Star Game players from outside the United States also include Frenchman Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz on Team Giannis and Team LeBron reserves Ben Simmons of Australia and the Philadelphia 76ers, Lithuanian Domantas Sabonis of Indiana and Serbian Nikola Jokic of Denver.

AFP

Kobe Bryant’s Achievements Before Tragic Helicopter Crash

 

 

Factfile on 18-time NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash Sunday at age 41 after playing his entire 20-season career with the Los Angeles Lakers:

Name: Kobe Bryant

Former Team: Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2016)

Position: Guard

Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Born: August 23, 1978

Died January 26, 2020

Height: 6feet, 6inches, 1.98m

Weight: 212lbs, 96kg

– Bryant was the son of Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant, who played eight seasons in the NBA

– Bryant spent eight years of his childhood with his family in Italy

– Bryant married Vanessa Laine, April 18, 2001. Daughter Natalia was born in January, 2003; daughter Gianna was born May, 2006; daughter Bianka was born December, 2016 and daughter Capri was born June, 2019

Awards/career highlights

– Bryant won five NBA championships — 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010

– Named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in leading Lakers to titles in 2009 and 2010

– Earned Olympic gold medals with USA at 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics

– Named NBA regular-season MVP in 2007-08 season and a record-tying four-time NBA All-Star Game MVP — 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011

– On January 22, 2006 scored a career-high 81 points in Lakers’ 122-104 victory over Toronto, second-most points in a game in NBA history

– In 2018, his movie “Dear Basketball” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

– Selected with 13th overall choice by Charlotte Hornets in 1996 NBA draft, becoming the 27th player to join NBA straight from high school.

– Acquired by Lakers shortly after draft

– Named an NBA All-Star 18 times – 1998 and 2000-2016

– Two-time NBA scoring champion – 2006 and 2007

– 1997 NBA Slam Dunk Contest winner

– Had both his jersey numbers, 8 and 24, retired by the Lakers, an unprecedented move

– Scored 33,643 points, grabbed 7,047 rebounds and passed off 6,306 assists over 1,346 career NBA games

– Scored a season-high 60 points in his last NBA game on April 13, 2016 in a 101-96 Lakers’ victory over Utah, becoming the oldest player in NBA history to score 60 points at 37 years and 234 days

Some of the significant injuries that affected Bryant during his career:

– Broken metacarpal bone in right hand, 1999-00 season

– Right index finger laceration, sprained right shoulder, 2003-04

– Severely sprained right ankle, 2004-05

– Index finger avulsion fracture, right knee swelling, sprained left ankle, 2009-10

– Torn left Achilles tendon requiring surgery, 2012-13

– Broken bone in left knee, 2013-14

– Torn right shoulder rotator cuff, 2015

How Twitter Reacted To Reports Of Kobe Bryant’s Death

 

 

How people on Twitter reacted to reports of the death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant on Sunday:

“Just devastated to hear about #KobeBryant. An extraordinary athlete, and a genuinely kind, wonderful man. Sending love, prayers & compassion to his family. To his entire @NBA family as well.”

— Oscar winning actress Reese Witherspoon

“Heart going out to the Bryant family right now. RIP Kobe Bryant.”

— US women’s footballer and World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe

“Kobe – you were a true inspiration to me as an athlete. I always admired your professionalism, drive and dedication. Our thoughts are with your loved ones. RIP.”

— Tennis star Kim Clijsters

“Like everyone, I’m stunned and saddened to hear the horrific news about Kobe Bryant. Thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this terribly sad time #RIPKobeBryant.”

— Australian cricket legend Shane Warne

“@kobebryant Gone much too soon, how devastating to hear of his passing, he gave joy to so many for so long – deep condolences to his family, his friends, his Laker family. RIP Kobe… #lifeistooshort.”

— Tennis great Martina Navratilova

“Heartbreaking news! Hard to fathom @kobebryant is gone. Just had their 4th child. 41 years old. #insane. RIP Kobe.”

— Former US tennis star Tracy Austin

“We miss you already Kobe.”

— NFL Super Bowl winner Tom Brady

“This is unreal.”

— LPGA golfer Cheyenne Woods, the niece of Tiger Woods

“I truly can’t believe this. My heart is so heavy. Rest In Peace Kobe. What an unimaginable loss. All of my prayers to your loved ones.”

— Former US Open tennis champion Sloane Stephens

“Life is so precious man. I was a huge fan. RIP Mamba.”

— US tennis player Mardy Fish

“Kobe Bryant you’re an angel. RIP to you legend. So kind and had time for everyone. The epitome of class and hard work. An Idol. Prayers to his family.”

— US footballer Jozy Altidore

“Hard to believe. RIP #KobeBryant #MambaMentality.”

— US golfer Bryson DeChambeau

“On behalf of myself, the players and staff at AS Roma, we join the rest of the sporting world in mourning the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant. Kobe was a true icon and our thoughts are now with his family and the families of all of the victims aboard that flight.”

— Jim Pallotta, the owner of Italian football giants AS Roma

“Shock right now. RIP KOBE.”

— World golf number one Brooks Koepka

“The moment you realise life ain’t something to fuck with! If you feel something tell that person! If you miss someone tell that person.. you never know when your time is up!”

— Australian rugby union international Quade Cooper

“I just found out 5 minutes ago and I still can’t believe it… Another example of how fragile life is, let’s enjoy it while we can. (And avoid helicopters until they are safer). DEP Kobe and the other 5 victims.”

— Spain’s former world motorcycling champion Jorge Lorenzo

“LA has lost one of our true superstars. Stunning to hear about the tragic and untimely death of #KobeBryant My heart goes out to his family and all the fans who will feel this loss so deeply.”

— Hollywood actress Tara Buck

“Speechless and shocked!! REST IN HEAVEN MAMBA.”

— German football international Kevin-Prince Boateng

Trump Says Reports Of Kobe Bryant’s Death Are “Terrible News”

 

US President Donald Trump said he was sorry to hear reports that basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in California.

“That is terrible news!” Trump tweeted.

READ ALSO: NBA Legend Kobe Bryant Killed In Helicopter Crash

Bryant died in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles, celebrity website TMZ reported, saying five people are confirmed dead in the incident.

NBA Legend Kobe Bryant, Daughter Die In Helicopter Crash

Bryant, 41, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on January 26, 2020.Robyn BECK / AFP

 

NBA legend Kobe Bryant died Sunday when a helicopter he was riding in crashed and burst into flames in thick fog, killing all nine people on board including his teenage daughter and plunging the sports world into mourning.

Bryant, 41, was travelling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when their Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.

Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist, is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history, an iconic figure who became one of the faces of his sport during a glittering two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dozens of firefighters and paramedics battled across steep terrain to reach the flaming wreckage at the crash site but found no survivors, officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said an 18-strong team of investigators would be sent to California to probe the causes of the crash.

Investigators work at the scene of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020, in Calabasas, California. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

 

Bryant’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world, with basketball stars stunned by the news.

“Laker Nation, the game of basketball & our city, will never be the same without Kobe,” former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.

Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan said Bryant was “like a little brother” to him.

“Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling,” Jordan said. “We used to talk often and I will miss those conversations very much.”

In this file photo taken on April 09, 2014, NBA Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant stands on the sideline with his daughter Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant on his shoulders prior to the start of a friendly game between the United States and China at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. 
Photo: Kent Horner / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Worldwide tributes

Tributes to Bryant flooded in from former US presidents, pop stars and athletes from different sports, a sign of how the man known as the “Black Mamba” had transcended basketball.

“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” former US President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter.

American football star Tom Brady wrote simply: “We miss you already Kobe.”

Brazilian soccer star Neymar paid tribute to Bryant after scoring for his French club side Paris Saint-Germain, making the number 24 — Bryant’s old shirt number — with his fingers.

At the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, several hundred shocked fans gathered to pay tribute as the venue which witnessed many of Bryant’s career highlights hosted the music industry’s Grammy Awards.

“This dude is everything to me man. It makes no sense,” said distraught Lakers fan Bobby Jimenez, sobbing as he stood outside the venue.

The Grammys got underway with a somber tribute from singer Alicia Keys.

“To be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” Keys told the audience. “Los Angeles, America, and the whole wide world lost a hero. And we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”

Across the NBA, tributes were held at several of the eight games scheduled for Sunday.

Denver Nuggets fans began chants of “Kobe, Kobe” as a minute’s silence was held before their game against the Houston Rockets.

In New York, Madison Square Garden was lit up in purple and gold colors of the Lakers, alongside a giant image of Bryant captioned: “Kobe Bryant, 1978-2020.”

The crash came only hours after Bryant was passed by current Lakers star LeBron James for third on the all-time NBA scoring list in a Saturday game at Philadelphia.

Bryant’s final post on social media had been a tweet congratulating James on surpassing him.

“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant wrote. “Much respect my brother #33644”.

Five-time champion

Bryant was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of a high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016.

He also was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helping spark the US squad of NBA stars to titles in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.

Bryant bowed out of the NBA in 2016, scoring 60 points in his final appearance before his adoring fans at the Staples Center.

It was a fairytale farewell to a sporting career that began two decades earlier.

The son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, the Lakers legend was born in Philadelphia in 1978 while his father played for the 76ers.

The elder Bryant played from 1984 to 1991 in Italy, giving young Kobe a global worldview as he grew up dreaming of following his dad into the NBA.

He would eventually join the ranks of professionals at the age of 17, jumping directly into the NBA, only the sixth player and first guard to make such a leap.

At 18, Bryant became, at the time, the youngest player or starter in an NBA game and the youngest winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

With Bryant paired alongside Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers captured three NBA crowns in a row from 2000-2002, returning the team to glory days unseen since 1988.

Bryant’s career was almost derailed in 2003 when he was arrested in Colorado over a sexual assault complaint filed by a 19-year-old hotel employee where Bryant was staying ahead of knee surgery.

Bryant was accused of rape. He admitted to adultery but said he did not commit rape. The case was dropped in 2004 after the accuser refused to testify in a trial.

A separate civil suit was settled under terms kept private.

Bryant saw out his career with the Lakers, successfully branching out into the entertainment industry following his retirement.

In 2018, he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball”, a love letter to the sport which brought him fame and fortune.

AFP

LeBron James Scores 21 As Lakers Snap Losing Streak

 

LeBron James scored a team-high 21 points and equalled his season-best of 16 assists as the Los Angeles Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 128-120 win over Portland on Saturday.

“We just wanted to play well,” Jame said. “We just try to play the right way, sharing the ball on offense. Win, lose, or draw we did that tonight.”

James was a late addition to the lineup because of a groin injury that has hampered his play of late. James said treatment for the injury includes plenty of ice packs.

READ ALSO: Martial, Rashford Score For United In Burnley Win

“I am doing all right. I am playing on it. I let the ice take care of its business,” he said.

Kyle Kuzma scored a team-high 24 points and Anthony Davis added 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the win.

Coach Frank Vogel said the Lakers needed to clean up the mistakes that caused them to suffer their longest losing streak of the season.

“We got a win and we are all happy about it,” he said. “We made some adjustments to things that were hurting us the last couple of games.”

Damian Lillard recorded 31 points and nine assists for the Trail Blazers, who lost their third straight game.

Elsewhere, Kyle Lowry scored 30 points as the Toronto Raptors avenged a Christmas Day loss to Boston with a 113-97 rematch victory over the Celtics.

Serge Ibaka finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Raptors snapped a two-game losing skid which included a 118-102 loss to Boston on Wednesday, as the two Eastern Conference contenders were playing for the second time in less than 72 hours.

Patrick McCaw had 18 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists, while a resurgent Fred VanVleet also scored 18 points in the win for the defending NBA champs. Lowry also had seven assists in front of the crowd of 19,100 at the Boston Garden arena.

“It didn’t sit well with me on Christmas Day,” McCaw said. “We definitely didn’t give it our best effort and I think tonight guys took it personally. It wasn’t talked about. Guys just went out and gave it their all.”

Kemba Walker scored 30 points for the Celtics, who had their five-game winning streak halted.

“We beat those guys two times already (this season), and obviously a few days ago on Christmas,” Walker said. “They definitely remembered that, of course. But those are the defending champs. They’ve got a target on their back, you know? They’re the team to beat.”

The injury-hit Raptors managed to slow down Jaylen Brown, who finished with 17 points. Gordon Hayward (13), Jayson Tatum (12) and Enes Kanter (11) also reached double figures in scoring.

McCaw got a layup in the first quarter to give the Raptors the lead and start a quarter ending 19-8 run.

Terence Davis’ putback gave the Raptors an 89-79 lead heading into the fourth, and Ibaka’s layup with 10:11 remaining lengthened the lead to double digits for good. Toronto led by as many as 17 over the final 12 minutes.

The Raptors were playing without forwards Norman Powell (shoulder) and Pascal Siakam (groin), as well as centre Marc Gasol (hamstring).

Also, Luka Doncic tallied 31 points, 15 assists, and 12 rebounds to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 141-121 victory over the hapless Golden State Warriors.

The triple-double was the ninth of the season for Doncic and ties the franchise record set by Jason Kidd in 1995-96. Doncic also made five three-pointers as Dallas set a franchise record by making 24 from behind the arc. The old mark of 22 took place three times.

Tim Hardaway made six three-pointers and scored 25 points and Kristaps Porzingis made four three-pointers while adding 18 points as the Mavericks won for the 15th time in the last 20 games.

D’Angelo Russell scored a game-high 35 points in the loss.

Family affair

In New Orleans, Brandon Ingram scored 24 points, and a half dozen teammates also scored in double figures as the New Orleans Pelicans cruised past the Indiana Pacers 120-98.

Jrue Holiday added 20 points, JJ Redick scored 15 and E’Twaun Moore and Josh Hart came off the bench to score 11 each for the Pelicans.

Jrue, Justin, and Aaron Holiday became the first trio of brothers to play in a NBA game when Justin checked in for the Pacers with 5:13 left in the first quarter. Jrue started for New Orleans and Aaron started for Indiana.

“It was cool,” Jrue said. “What happened was Justin was about to come in and (coach) was about take me out. I told him no I was staying in just because of the moment like that.”

Due to the age difference between the brothers — Justin is 30, while Aaron is 23 — the three have never played in the same game before, even as children.