CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers took the court at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse Tuesday night with heavy hearts and a fallen NBA legend on their minds.
In their first home appearance since the tragic loss of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California Sunday, the Cavaliers and their opponent, the New Orleans Pelicans, paid tribute to their fallen brother before and during the game.
“The heartbreaking news of the tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, along with seven others reverberated around the world in a universal language of shock, disbelief and sadness,” Cavaliers public address announcer Sean Peebles read before the game.
“Kobe’s relentless approach to his craft, his competitive fire and his pursuit of excellence was only by his pure love of the game and his family. Our emotions and sentiments run very deep and heavy as we extend our thoughts and prayers to his wife, Vanessa, their family, as well as the loved ones and families of all those lost on Sunday.
“As one of the greatest to ever take the court, Kobe had a unique, inspiring and iconic presence that multiplied over its rare and remarkable 20-year NBA playing career. We will be forever grateful for Kobe’s impact and miss him greatly.”
Following the statement, the Cavaliers’ scoreboard crew put 24.8 seconds on the clock, representative of the two numbers Bryant wore during his NBA career. Then, the clock ran, and after time expired, a photo of Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, once again were projected onto the court.
After the moment of remembrance, chants of “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe” filled the arena and the Cavaliers showed a picture of Bryant on the scoreboard alongside his name and dates of birth and passing (1978-2020).
The tributes to Bryant continued when the game began.
The Pelicans won the opening tip and former Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball took an eight-second backcourt violation, which turned over the ball to the Cavaliers. Bryant wore the No. 8 for the first half of his career before transitioning to No. 24.
Cavaliers point guard Collin Sexton took an in-bounds pass from guard Dante Exum and stood to the left of the midcourt logo, letting the 24-second shot clock expire. As the final seconds ticked off for the Cavaliers’ violation, the entire crowd gave Bryant a standing ovation and chanted his name.
Peebles followed the announcement of each of the turnovers with: “Kobe Bryant.”