Title: ‘That’s my one guy that I put up on a pedestal’: Death of Kobe Bryant hits Raptors and Spurs players hard
Date: January 26, 2020
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about the Raptors and Spurs playing through the loss of Kobe Bryant, Bryant’s impact on the roster, and the bonds basketball creates.
SAN ANTONIO — Fred VanVleet corralled the opening tip of the game, as directed by Marc Gasol, and dribbled with his head down across half court. With his eyes firmly on the area in front of the San Antonio Spurs logo at midcourt, VanVleet offered no action. There was no play call. No screener coming. No hint of a pull-up jumper. He just dribbled, head hung.
As the AT&T Center crowd realized what was happening, a low rumble of appreciation began to swell. As the shot clock ticked down towards zero, VanVleet lifted his head and stared into everything beyond the Spurs’ basket. The shot clock expired, the buzzer sounded and VanVleet took one extra moment before returning to the Toronto Raptors’ end, where the Spurs would offer the same intentional 24-second violation in a tribute to Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
On Sunday, Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California.
“I think, you know, it’s the least we could do,” VanVleet said. “Not that that amounts to anything, but you try to show your respects as best you can. I think if it was any earlier, I don’t know if we would have played that game, but we ended up out there, so we wanted to try to be as professional as possible.”