Thu, 21 Jan 2021

United States - The NBA grappled with the sudden death of league great Kobe Bryant on Sunday, players saying they felt sick to their stomach taking to the court without having ample time to absorb the shocking news.

A haunting moment of silence preceded the Houston Rockets' game against the Nuggets in Denver, which tipped off just hours after the helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles in which Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine who perished.

In San Antonio, where the Spurs hosted the reigning champion Toronto Raptors, both teams took 24-second shot-clock violations on their first possessions of the game in honor of Bryant -- who wore the number 24 in the later years of his career.

And in a move that other NBA teams are also expected to adopt, the Dallas Mavericks announced that they were retiring the number 24 jersey.

Several NBA stars said they were reluctant to step on the court after learning the news.

said Portland's Damian Lillard said before scoring 50 points in a 139-129 win over Indiana.

Newly-retired Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade described Sunday as "one of the saddest days of my lifetime," adding that he couldn't believe Bryant was gone and that his family had been sharing Kobe stories all day.

he said.

'We should honor him'

Eight NBA games were on tap Sunday, and the prevailing mood in every arena was sadness and shock.

Lillard said their coach Terry Stotts told them to go out and honor Bryant by not holding back.

Reigning NBA finals MVP Kawhi Leonard said all of Los Angeles was feeling the loss.

said Los Angeles Clippers Leonard.

New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson was preparing to start just his third career NBA contest against Boston when he was floored by news of the death.

said Williamson, who was born the year Bryant won his first NBA championship in 2000. "It was tough getting out there. I just hate to see it happen like that to him and his daughter."

Clippers coach Doc Rivers fought back tears as he spoke to reporters before his team took on the Magic in Orlando.

Rivers said, calling himself "lucky" to have had a chance to coach against Bryant -- who won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Rivers said. "It's what you want in sports. He had that DNA that very few athletes can ever have -- the Tiger Woodses and Michael Jordans.

'Crazy day to play basketball'

Rivers said as he lost his battle to hold back his tears.

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said Bryant was one of the most driven players he has ever seen.

said Gentry before his team's game against Boston.

Atlanta Hawks rising star Trae Young said he was just getting to know Bryant and his basketball playing daughter.

Young said before the Hawks beat Washington 152-133.

Bryant was one of the best closers the NBA has ever seen. Throughout his career, Bryant would baffle his coach Phil Jackson with his penchant to start games slowly before assuming total command in the fourth quarter.

Former German all-star Dirk Nowitzki referred to Bryant's finishing skills in a heart-tugging written tribute.

said Nowitzki.

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