LOS ANGELES (AP) — All-Star forward Paul George narrated a 2-minute video tribute to Kobe Bryant before the Los Angeles Clippers faced the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night. It was the first basketball game at Staples Center since Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in Sunday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas.
George, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, said during the video: “We gather tonight in the house that Kobe Bryant built to honor and remember him. He was as synonymous with Southern California as the sunshine and touched every inch of it.”
Bryant’s retired No. 8 and 24 Lakers jerseys were left uncovered in the upper left corner of Staples Center. Following the video tribute, there was 24 seconds of silence followed by “Kobe, Kobe” chants before the national anthem.
The tribute was a preamble to the Lakers’ return to Staples Center Friday night for their first game since Bryant’s death. Their game Tuesday against the Clippers was postponed out of respect for the grieving franchise and city.
The Clippers wore No. 24 shooting shirts during pregame warm-ups while Doc Rivers and the coaching staff wore ties and shoes honoring Bryant.
Both Rivers and Kings coach Luke Walton said they had mixed emotions entering the arena. Rivers said he has received a lot of pictures from people showing him and Bryant together.
“Everywhere you go, you are reminded. It has been a tough week for the whole city and that’s OK,” Rivers said.
Walton, a former Lakers player and coach, said he walked around LA Live shortly after the Kings arrived early Thursday morning. He added it was an emotional scene with people still outside grieving Bryant at 2 a.m.
“You think you’re doing fine and then you walk into Staples Center. It is still really hard and a lot of emotions that continue to come back,” Walton said. “I try to focus on what an inspiration he is to me and others, which helps.”
Rivers said the best way to honor Bryant’s memory the rest of the season is to compete like he would.
“It was already our journey and then this happens,” Rivers said. “They understand if you really want to salute him, he made a lot of sacrifices to be a winner and we have to do the same.”