Packers Lead Pro Bowl Tributes to Kobe Bryant

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Sunday’s Pro Bowl was overshadowed by the shocking death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant. Two members of the Green Bay Packers led the on-the-field tributes.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith and his NFC defensive teammates mimicked Bryant’s fadeaway jumper.

“I don't even want to talk about it anymore,” Smith said in the locker room hours later. “I don't want to get emotional.”

After a touchdown catch, Adams pointed to the sky, flashed two and four fingers for Bryant’s No. 24 jersey and did a 360-degree dunk of the football over the goalpost.

"I'm a big basketball guy," Adams told ESPN's Lisa Salters after the game. "So, Kobe always meant something special to me, being from California, especially."

As always, the outcome of the game was irrelevant. The AFC won 38-33.

Adams, Smith and Kenny Clark were on the NFC team as injury replacements. Adams caught touchdown passes of 13 and 4 yards in the second half. He caught a team-high six passes, which he turned into 61 yards. He also completed a 34-yard pass to Detroit’s Kenny Golladay. Smith had two sacks, one forced fumble and one interception. Clark had one tackle.

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter were among those who died in a helicopter crash early Sunday near Calabasas, Calif. He is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and three daughters. Vanessa, and the three daughters Bryant leaves behind. These are the people closest to Bryant, yet they represent a fraction of the people he has touched. Bryant leaves behind a complicated legacy, but for young athletes could not have been simpler. A generation lost a hero on Sunday, thousands of basketball players who grew up spinning along baselines and firing up picture-perfect midrange jump shots lost the legend that showed them how.

“It’s heart-wrecking,” Lions cornerback Darius Slay said with tears in his eyes. “There’s not any words you can say. I'm in shock. I just imagine him growing old, being part-owner of the Lakers and having a future son I could cheer for next. It's just shocking. Me saying the words ‘Kobe’s gone,’ that’s just crazy.”

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and left tackle David Bakhtiari were selected for the Pro Bowl team but elected not to play. On his Instagram, Rodgers said of Bryant: "So many of us have our “Kobe” story; an inspirational moment, play, game, or tale of his work ethic, that inspired us to dig deeper, work harder, train longer, or trust ourselves at a new level in a clutch moment. That was that #mambamentality and we are all grateful for your inspiration." 

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