Chicago Bulls: Team, players pay tribute to Kobe before game

The Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant on Monday, one day after shocking news broke that he died in a helicopter crash. Here’s how they remembered the NBA legend.

For all those around the NBA, including the Chicago Bulls, the basketball world just doesn’t seem the same.

As many analysts and those close to the NBA have said, it’s been tough to focus on basketball over the last two days. The shocking news broke Sunday that NBA legend Kobe Bryant passed away with eight others in a helicopter crash in California. He was just 41 years old.

One of those eight others was Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant. She was considered to be a future star in women’s basketball. Players, coaches, executives, fans, and analysts around the NBA have all expressed their deep sadness and shock over the news of the crash.

Several teams played NBA games on Sunday after the news of Kobe’s death broke, and they all paid tribute to him in various ways. Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young started Sunday’s game wearing #8 before changing into his regular #11 jersey.

Every game that’s been played since the news of Kobe’s death has started with a 24-second shot clock violation, in reference to the #24 that Kobe wore during the second half of his career. On Monday it was time for the Bulls to play their first game since Kobe’s passing.

The United Center was lit up in purple on Sunday and Monday night, with two pictures of Kobe showing on the large video boards outside the stadium. The two jersey numbers he wore, 8 and 24, were alongside the pictures. The statue of Michael Jordan was also lit in purple.

Before the game between the Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, the Bulls asked all fans to observe a 24 second moment of silence in honor of Kobe and all the others that perished in the crash. A short montage of basketball highlights and family photos played on the jumbotron.

When the game started, the Bulls won the tip and took an eight-second violation in memory of Kobe’s first jersey number. The Spurs then followed with a 24-second violation to honor the superstar.

Several Bulls players posted tributes to Kobe on social media. Forward Thaddeus Young shared his thoughts alongside a picture of him shaking hands with Kobe after a game. Young also wore special purple Kobe 4 shoes during Monday’s game.

Guard Zach LaVine played college basketball at UCLA and says he looked up to Kobe all his life. Before the game on Monday, LaVine had this to say about the superstar [via Chicago Tribune]:

I used to idolize Kobe. He was my favorite player growing up. He’s one of the reasons why I wear No. 8…[Kids] wanted to be like him. It’s like kids in the ‘80s and ‘90s wanted to be like Mike. We wanted to be like Kobe.

LaVine took control on Monday night when the Bulls needed him. He scored or assisted on 19 of the team’s 35 fourth-quarter points, helping to secure a 110-108 win over the Spurs.

The guard is having a breakout season and should be an NBA All-Star.  He’s been on a roll lately, scoring over 20 points in each of his last 15 games.

Related Story: Chicago athletes remember Kobe Bryant

For LaVine and all players around the league, it must seem surreal that their hero is gone so soon. While they have to get back to work, situations like these make you realize that there’s so much more to life than basketball.

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