“If it wasn’t for Kobe, I would probably be playing volleyball somewhere”
Joel Embiid had one of the most heartbreaking reactions to Kobe Bryant’s death when the news broke on Sunday. Embiid wrote about how Kobe’s performance in the 2010 NBA Finals, beating the Celtics in seven games and winning Finals MVP, inspired him as a teenager in Cameroon to start playing basketball.
For the Sixers’ first game since the tragedy, Embiid called up Philadelphia legend Bobby Jones to ask if he could wear Jones’s retired No. 24 as a tribute to Kobe. Jones agreed.
Embiid, who had missed the last nine games with a hand injury, wore No. 24 in a performance that would make Kobe proud. He dropped 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting and added 10 rebounds.
The fourth-quarter shot that gave Embiid 24 points was a picture-perfect fadeaway straight out of Kobe’s playbook. Embiid said after the game that he yelled “Kobe” when he let the shot go.
“I didn’t know it was actually the 24th point as I shot that fadeaway,” Embiid told reporters. “That was what it was about. I actually yelled ‘Kobe!’ A lot of us, since I’ve been playing basketball, that’s how we’ve always done it. You shoot something in the trash and then you just go, ‘Kobe!’ That was cool. And for it be the 24th point, and me wearing 24, means a lot.”
After the game, Embiid expanded a bit on the size of the impact Kobe had on his life. He truly believes that if he hadn’t watched those Finals he never would have been an NBA player.
“When you think about where I came from and how I started playing the game, I go back to the first time I really watched basketball, which was in 2010, the Finals against Boston,” Embiid said. “That’s how I became a Kobe fan. I wanted to be like Kobe and I wanted to play basketball. A year later, it took a lot of convincing and I actually started playing ball. I’ve been saying since [Kobe died], I wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for that moment. If it wasn’t for Kobe, I would probably be playing volleyball somewhere or be a doctor.”
TNT’s Kobe special could not have been better
TNT’s Kobe Bryant memorial coverage was truly fantastic. I was hoping the network would upload the full first hour on YouTube (maybe they still will) but they did post many of the guests’ reflections, including these two long segments of Shaq and Dwyane Wade that got a lot of attention.
Jerry West was also gut-wrenching. He said that the only thing that could compare to Kobe’s death was when his brother, David, died in the Korean War, which hit me really hard.
Later in the night, TNT aired this great video package before dedicating an entire episode of Inside the NBA to Kobe. The network was supposed to be airing the Clippers-Lakers game, which was postponed, so they spent the entire block just talking about Kobe.
There are a bunch more remembrances on the NBA on TNT YouTube channel, including from Rick Fox, Steve Nash, Reggie Miller and Derek Fisher.
The best of SI
How the NBA should honor Kobe. ... Players at Super Bowl media day spent much of their time discussing Kobe Bryant’s legacy. ... These are Kobe’s best TV commercials. ... Lane Kiffin is beginning his fourth head coaching job at the age of just 45—and if he fails, it just may be his last.
Around the sports world
A German soccer coach is mad at his players for flying in a celebrity barber before a big game. ... Allen Iverson had $500,000 worth of jewelry stolen from him but the suspect has turned himself in. ... A sumo wrestler completed a massive upset to win a tournament and burst into tears.
Great tribute in Kobe’s hometown
A few players changed their jersey numbers to honor Kobe
Jerry Jones brought his massive yacht to the Super Bowl in Miami
Coach K got heated
From way downtown!
They called offsides on a corner!
It’s always something with the Knicks
These are crimes against jerseys
Traffic on Manhattan’s FDR Drive came to a dead stop as someone tried to rescue a dog. ... An Arizona man was busted for driving in the HOV lane with a skeleton mannequin as his passenger. ... Emilio Estevez is reprising his role as Gordon Bombay for a Mighty Ducks Disney+ series.
Attention PR people reading this: do not do this to me
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A good song
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