Image Credit: YouTube
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver should have canceled Sunday’s games.
Because despite the beauty of the outcome, some things should never commence.
It’s Tuesday, and by now, many of us have at least had some sort of opportunity to start processing what took place two days ago in Calabasas, California. On Monday evening, it was announced that tonight’s much-anticipated matchup between the Lakers and Clippers would be postponed.
“Discussions among the NBA, Lakers and Clippers played out over the past several hours — ultimately with no objection from the Clippers to honor Lakers request of postponing Tuesday’s game in aftermath of Kobe Bryant’s passing, per sources,” tweeted ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
But on Sunday afternoon, emotions were raw.
Kyrie Irving walked out of Madison Square Garden and didn’t play when his Brooklyn Nets faced the Knicks.
Tyson Chandler and PJ Tucker were seen crying during warmups, on the bench, and when a moment of silence was held before the Rockets took the floor.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers broke down during an interview.
Bradley Beal’s eyes were red as he held back tears.
Amar’e Stoudemire was distraught on the court when he heard the news just minutes before he was making his debut in Israel.
Men who are so often marveled at due to their size and stature were breaking down right in front of us after learning that their friend, mentor, big brother, and hero was gone. They didn’t have time to heal, because of all things, they had a “game to play.”
“Honestly, knowing him, the way I know him, he would have wanted me to play,” said a teary-eyed Carmelo Anthony, Sunday night after Portland’s game against the Indiana Pacers. “This probably was the hardest game I ever had to play. Just uh … I don’t know … whoooo. It was tough. It was tough.”
Anthony’s teammates, Damian Lillard, conveyed the same message as the Trail Blazers were involved in Sunday’s final game.
“It’s amazing. I was in college and watching those Lakers teams and watching them really in the trenches together,” said Lillard when asked how he thought teammate Trevor Ariza was able to play after learning about Bryant’s death.
“Trev(or) is a southern California guy. A L.A. guy. He’s known Kobe since way back then and in high school. So, you can imagine how deep that runs for him. So, for him to come out here and find it in himself, to do his job, and be a professional, I think that says a lot about him and he should be recognized for that.”
Almost every team that played on Sunday found a way to recognize Bryant, whether it was a moment of silence before the game, or teams choosing to take 24 or 8-second violations to honor his No. 24 and No. 8 jerseys.
In Atlanta, Trae Young started the game wearing a No. 8 jersey. And in Memphis, Phoenix’s Devin Booker was visibly emotional. The two young stars combined for 81 points – the scoring mark that Bryant set in 2006 – and each took 24 shots, the final number Bryant wore in his career.
“It’s crazy. Kobe was with me,” Young said. “There are some other stats that they told me in the back, and I was like, ‘Man, Kobe was with me tonight.’”
But of all the players that took the floor on Sunday, and played with and against Bryant over the years, Vince Carter is the one I keep thinking of. You see, Sunday was Carter’s 43rd birthday, and from now on, his annual day of celebration will always be clouded with some sadness.
“I wasn’t ready for it. Last time I cried was family passing. But he was family,” Carter told The Athletic.
“I know a couple of players who’d played against him, and this hit us in a special way,” Carter explained. “But it was interesting to see the effect it had on some of the guys who were barely born when he was in the NBA. He’s a hero to a lot of them.”
All the players that took the court on Sunday should be commended. They competed at the highest level despite the situation, as Bryant would have wanted them to do.
But just because Kobe may have wanted it that way, it doesn’t mean it had to go down like that.
Self-preservation is a behavior that’s highly undervalued. And with a league that’s supposedly leading the charge when it comes to the mental health of its athletes, the NBA committed a costly turnover on Sunday. However, Monday’s decision to postpone the Lakers/Clippers game is a suitable make-up call.
On Saturday, Lebron James passed Bryant for third place on the league’s all-time scoring list. It led to him releasing his final tweet in praise of James, “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother ?? #33644.”
Monday night, LeBron released his own statement on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had! I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! ?????. Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation?? and it’s my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life❤️?? #Gigi4Life❤️??
Ironically, given Bryant’s forthcoming death and the fact that he was once a former rival, after that game, Dwight Howard wound up being the person who shared the message we all needed to hear.
“We don’t appreciate each other as much as we should as a humanity,” he explained. “Something like that should be appreciated. We should appreciate people while they’re alive, and accomplishments like that is something we don’t typically see.”
Well said, Dwight.
Because far too often we take people for granted and aren’t given enough time to mourn our losses.
This column is dedicated to anyone that has been affected, in any way, by the deaths of nine human beings that were taken too soon on Sunday.