In the days following Kobe Bryant’s death, it’s been eye-opening to scan the NBA and take note of all of the team and personal gestures designed to pay tribute to the fallen league icon.
If began immediately on Sunday with purposeful 24-second violations to honor one of the two uniform numbers he wore during his 20-year career with the Lakers.
Perhaps the most highly anticipated honor will come Friday night when the Lakers resume their schedule against the Trail Blazers at Staples Center. The NBA canceled Tuesday’s Lakers-Clippers game after concluding the Lakers organization was in no state to successfully host or participate.
We haven’t heard much yet from the Lakers, other than LeBron James’ heart-felt Instagram post in which he pledged to shoulder the load of his friend’s legacy into the future by serving as an ambassador of the sport. There have been reports James led a team meeting held after practice on Tuesday during which it reminisced and told personal stories about Bryant.
Other players have taken to social media to heap praise on Bryant, calling him both an inspiration and a mentor. Others, like Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul, are still too emotionally raw to say anything. Irving did not play in the Nets last game against the Knicks because he was grieving.
Before that game, Kevin Durant spoke to local media for the first time since September to share how he’s been impacted by the loss of Bryant, his former 2012 Olympic teammate.
“It’s still hard to process,” Durant said. “It’s a tragedy. It makes so many people in the world so sad.
“Having an opportunity to compete against Kobe and being around him in a human space was a joy. It’s hard to comprehend all of this, but just having that time and those moments with Kobe, it was always about pressing forward. At this time, it’s so hard to do so, just the amount of impact he had on all of us, you know? It’s hard to keep going, as a basketball community, as a world as a whole. I know we’re just mourning, sticking together when it comes to this.
“Kobe Bryant was just a joy to be around. You displayed every emotion when you were with him. As a competitor, you hate to play against him. As somebody that admired him, you just love being in his presence.
“Kobe was so great that we all had our own personal relationship with him no matter if we were close with him or far away as a kid growing up in Maryland and watching the Lakers so much, I felt like I knew him close my whole life. We’ve seen him grow up. We’ve seen him retire and go into the second phase of life.”
The Nets were one of the teams honoring Bryant by committing a 24-second shot-clock violation on their first possession of their game against the Knicks.
Spencer Dinwiddie, who considered Bryant as his childhood hero, switched from wearing No. 8 to No. 26.
“For him to tell me that in his book I am an All-Star and stuff like that,” he said. “Guys talk about the popularity contest before, and you don’t win things like that when [you’re] me. So for him to say that I didn’t need to be selected anymore because I was an All-Star, and it wasn’t just my family saying it – it was the guy.”
Here is an example of some other tributes that have been going on around the league:
The Magic announced Terrence Ross will wear No. 31 – instead of No. 8 – beginning Saturday. Ross wore No. 31 before switching to No. 8 this season.
Celtics guard Kemba Walker is trying to decide whether to stick with No. 8 to honor Bryant and switch to another number.
“I’m considering it, but I’m not sure yet,” Walker told ESPN. “I definitely have tons of respect for Kobe. Everybody mourns a bit different. For me, I’m thinking I’d love to honor him by wearing that number. Kobe played hard each and every night, and I would like to honor him by doing the same. I am definitely thinking about it. But we’ll see.”
Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor, who wears No. 8, said earlier this week he might also switch. 76ers guard Zhaire Smith is trading his No. 8 for No. 5.
Lakers guard Quinn Cook is switching from No. 2 to No. 28, representing Bryant’s No. 8 and the No. 2 to honor his daughter Gianna, who wore that number in her youth league.
According to the NBA, requests to change jerseys need to be approved the season before a player changes. The league’s rule says requests to change a jersey number must be filed by Feb. 15 of the prior season. The league does have the flexibility to approve uniform changes immediately on a case-by-case basis.
The league allowed Trae Young of the Hawks to wear No. 8 for the opening tip of Sunday’s game against the Wizards. Then he changed to his regular No. 11. In other examples, Joel Embiid of the 76ers wore No. 24 on Tuesday – instead of his 21 – after getting permission from Hall of Famer Bobby Jones. And the Cavs’ Larry Nance, Jr., wore No. 24 instead of his No. 22 in the first half of their game Tuesday against New Orleans.
Several players, wearing shoes from Bryant’s Nike line, inscribed personal messages. The Pelicans’ Lonzo Ball wrote “RIP Kobe” and “RIP Gianna” on his.
”Everybody knows how much he meant to me,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum told The Associated Press. ”From somebody I really looked up to, and really was like my hero – the reason I started playing basketball. To becoming a friend and a mentor, somebody that I could talk to and help me out with a bunch of things on and off the court. It’s been a tough couple of days.”