Last night, the Los Angeles Lakers played their first game since the death of Kobe Bryant, and it was an emotional rollercoaster.
The team honored Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven others who died in the helicopter crash with them on Sunday with an extended pregame tribute followed by a tearful speech from LeBron James. Usher sang “Amazing Grace,” and at halftime Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth brought everyone to tears again by performing their emotional ballad “See You Again.”
I have genuinely no idea how the Lakers made it through all the emotional baggage that came with all that and played a competitive basketball game, but they did, ultimately losing a close one down the stretch against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Tonight they will take the floor for the second night in a row, and without all of the extra feelings that came with playing for the first time since they lost someone many of them considered a brother or a hero.
Quinn Cook talked last night about how hard it was to play under the circumstances surrounding this game: pic.twitter.com/gmvr1GSxnm— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) February 1, 2020
Real deaths aren’t some “adversity” to overcome, but there is something to be said for just starting to return closer to normalcy to try and help the healing process. The Kings will likely honor Bryant and the others lost in some way before the game in Sacramento, but it also likely won’t carry the same weight as the Lakers’ gigantic tribute, and this game will also just be one step closer towards a return to the routine.
After a game last night that he called “definitely the heaviest” he’s ever been a part of, Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel said he felt “time” was the only thing that was going to make things any easier.
“That’s the simplest answer. We’ve got to continue to focus on the work. There is therapy in the work,” Vogel said. “That’s what’s led to our success so far this year.”
And he has confidence that plenty more success is on the way, despite how hard the last week has been.
“It’s gonna take time, but our guys, we’ve got a resilient group with high character that has a great work ethic, and we’ll continue to get back to work,” Vogel said. “There is a lot of season left to be played, and we expect to finish strong.”
That journey to the finish line continues tonight, with the Lakers and Kings tipping off in the state capital at 7:00 p.m. PST on Spectrum SportsNet.
Notes and Updates
- The Lakers originally listed Alex Caruso (neck soreness) and Anthony Davis (gluteus maximus contusion) as questionable for last night’s game. Both of them played — although Caruso was a game-time decision — but it is fair to wonder how cautious the team will be with both players on a back-to-back if either of their injuries were aggravated a bit by playing last night. We’ll update this if anything changes, or if the Lakers release an injury report.
- Our own Christian Rivas (@RadRivas) was in the building last night, and wrote a beautiful story attempting to put the night in perspective. Yes, the Lakers lost, but it also wasn’t the biggest loss they’ve faced this week. In a way that was more important than the game, LeBron James stepped up in exactly the way this organization and fanbase needed him to.
- Christian also wrote from Los Angeles about what Kobe taught this fanbase, and how the city is moving forward with his lessons.
- Speaking of James, he is clearly mourning. His heartfelt speech to the crowd prior to the game is worth reading or watching in its entirety if you’re ready to and haven’t done so already, and before the game, I wrote about how it seems he and Kobe were closer than we ever knew.
- The Lakers made a few changes to their court and jerseys to honor Kobe that they debuted last night. The 2020 NBA All-Star Game will also see players wear his and Gianna’s jersey numbers as part of a larger tribute.
- The city of Los Angeles is consulting with the Lakers and Bryant family on plans for a memorial to Kobe and the eight others who died with him, so stay tuned for updates on that.