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Embiid wears 24 and scores 24 as Kobe tribute, while emotional Shaq remembers former team-mate

Bryant’s hometown team the Philadelphia 76ers displayed Bryant’s number 33 Lower Merion High School jersey before last night’s game.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid.
Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid.
Image: Gregory Shamus

KOBE BRYANT’S HOMETOWN NBA team, the Philadelphia 76ers, paid tribute to the Los Angeles Lakers legend Tuesday while heartbroken players tried to cope with the five-time NBA champion’s death.

Bryant died Sunday at age 41 in a helicopter crash along with eight other people, including his daughter Gigi, devastating players and fans worldwide.

“It has been really hard to play, really hard to focus,” said Boston playmaker Gordon Hayward. “He meant so much to us in the league and across basketball.

“Words can’t describe how I think we all feel. It’s a tragedy.”

Hayward scored a game-high 29 points and Jaylen Brown added 25 to lead the Celtics over Miami 109-101, only the Heat’s third home loss of the year.

The NBA postponed the Lakers’ home game scheduled Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers in the wake of Bryant’s death, which came just hours after Lakers star LeBron James had overtaken Bryant for third on the NBA all-time scoring list.

“He’s tore up,” ex-teammate Dwyane Wade said of pal James, noting the superstar wanted people to know that “all of us were trying to do our very best to make him proud of us — we were just trying to put ourselves on Kobe’s level.

“He stopped the Earth for a day. No one moved. No one did anything. That was how it felt.”

At Philadelphia, the 76ers displayed Bryant’s number 33 Lower Merion High School jersey, showed nine lights in a darkened arena in tribute to each crash victim, had a 33-second moment of silence and a video tribute for Bryant before defeating Golden State 115-104.

Cameroonian center Joel Embiid, back for the 76ers after missing three weeks with a torn finger ligament on his left hand, wore number 24 as a tribute to Bryant and scored 24 points while pulling down 10 rebounds.

Embiid made his return from a finger injury in the 76ers’ 115-104 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Brazilian guard Raul Neto came off the Sixers’ bench to score 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, hitting 3-of-5 from 3-point range.

Neto had played for Utah in 2016 when Bryant unleashed a 60-point effort against the Jazz in the final game of his epic career, a “great experience” for the South American even in defeat.

“It was something special, something I’ll take away for the rest of my life,” Neto said. “I’ll remember his face, the way he loved that game. He showed me his passion. Playing against him, I saw that on his face.

“That’s what I’ll take from that game. The 60 points, he basically did that by himself. He just went off. He was amazing.”

Neto was emotionally touched by the pre-game ceremony, drawing lessons from seeing Bryant gone so shockingly.

“If we take something from that, it’s enjoy every day we are here, just stay present and stay in the moment,” Neto said. “That got me focused on the game.”

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An emotional Shaquille O’Neal broke down in tears during a TNT tribute to his former team-mate at the Staples Center floor, where he was joined by Dwyane Wade, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, Reggie Miller and Jerry West.

“I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while,” O’Neal said.

Source: NBA on TNT/YouTube

“We, our names will be attached together for what we did. People always ask about our relationship, and I tell them it’s just like me and Charles [Barkley]. You got two strong-minded people that are going to get it done that way … going to say certain things, but the respect will never be lost, but when it comes to being inside the lines and winning, that is what me and him, that is what we did.”

O’Neal continued: “The fact that we are not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony, the fact that we are not going to be able to say, ‘Ha, I got five. You got four [championships],’” said O’Neal who lost sister Ayesha Harrison-Jex to cancer in October.

“The fact that we are not going to be able to say if we would have stayed together, we could have gotten 10 … those are the things you can’t get back. With the loss of my father and my sister … that is the only thing I wish, I could just say something to them again.”

© – AFP, 2020   

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