Normally “Senior Night” would have been the only show at the Sierra Canyon boys’ basketball home game against Campbell Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 29. And while the Trailblazers’ seniors were saluted, there were plenty of nods to the departed Bryant.
Players from both teams warmed up for the game wearing black or purple Bryant jerseys. Likewise, Bryant jerseys and T-shirts could be seen being worn throughout the completely full gymnasium. Before the game started, a 24-second moment of silence was held in Bryant’s memory.
When the game started, Campbell Hall took the opening tip and held the ball for 24 seconds, incurring a shot-clock violation. When the ball was given to Sierra Canyon, players held the ball in the backcourt for an 8-second backcourt violation, both in deference to Bryant’s jersey numbers.
“(Campbell Hall) Coach Steven Tolbert and I are good friends and we spoke before the game about doing this,” Sierra Canyon Coach Andre Chevalier said.
“Kobe left a legacy that went beyond his playing days. These kids know that he was one of the best that ever played — they can watch film and video, so they know who he is. And Bronny and (Zaire) Wade are like family to [Bryant], they are connected to him. So we may be a little more attached to this than others.”
Both actions moved the crowd to standing ovations. Among those in attendance were current Lakers star LeBron James, whose son Bronny plays on the Sierra Canyon team. Even though James is a regular at the Trailblazer games, his security had to repel efforts by unknown persons, including media, who wanted to speak to him during the game itself or at halftime.
James — who had posted how “devastated” he was by Bryant’s death on Instagram — normally would have been at Staples Center on Tuesday, but the Lakers game against the Los Angeles Clippers was postponed.
Others at the game spoke of Bryant’s impact.
“What I will remember the most: his mentality, the dedication he brought to the game, the things he wanted to do,” said Jayson Kinslow, a film and talent agent from Los Angeles who was wearing a Bryant jersey. “It wasn’t just ‘the day of the game,’ it was all the preparation that went into it. Whatever he was doing, he did it to the fullest of his ability, or researching how he could improve. That’s as good a work ethic as you can teach people in sports or in any part of life.”
Dhantay Jones, a former NBA player (and teammate of LeBron James on the 2016 NBA championship team in Cleveland), played against Bryant. He has a daughter who attends Sierra Canyon.
“Kobe’s an icon,” Jones said. “[His death] was as big as Michael Jackson’s. He deserves the respect because he did so much for the game of basketball, especially in LA but also around the world, giving to the game of basketball what he gave to it.”
Jones, for one, believes history will always be positive to Kobe Bryant.
“People won’t forget him. He’ll stay a legend throughout the world for what he’s done — not just basketball but life in general. His mentality, what he’s given to people, he’ll be around forever.”