The basketball world received devastating news on Sunday after it was announced that Kobe Bryant and his daughter had died in a helicopter crash. The loss was felt across the NBA on January 26, 2020, as the members of the league attempted to process the loss of one of its most beloved icons. The Raptors, who heard the news ahead of their face-off against the San Antonio Spurs, released a heartbreaking tribute to Bryant on Monday.
In the video, the team can be seen solemnly making their way to the court before stopping for a huddle, a complete contrast to their usual warm-up, which is erratic and high energy.
Instead, the team can be seen hugging and supporting one another.
"You can imagine how hard it is to do your job at that point because you're not thinking about work or profession, you're not thinking about points or anything like that. You're thinking about life, what's really important to you as a human being and how fragile and how all that can be gone in a split second," Marc Gasol states in an interview featured in the clip.
Norman Powell, who bonded with Bryant at training camp over last year's offseason, also opened up about the loss of his friend and mentor.
Open Gym Moment | 24 for 24 https://t.co/2z4Ba18Way— Toronto Raptors (@Toronto Raptors)1580151600.0
"I model the whole mentality of being an ultimate competitor, grinding, working day in and day out, sacrificing a lot of things to get to where you want to be. I try to implement that in my game... just like he did," an emotional Powell said during a post-game interview.
The Raptors took a moment of silence for Bryant during Sunday night's game, which can also be seen in the video.
Fred VanVleet can be seen running out the 24-second shot clock in honour of the player who famously wore the number 24 during his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The tribute received a standing ovation from the crowd.
A touching embrace between Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan was also captured during the game. The Raptors ultimately triumphed over the Spurs in a bittersweet 110-106 victory.
The players' reactions echoed those of many people around the world, including celebrities. Canadian stars like Justin Bieber and Simu Liu have shared touching messages about Kobe Bryant's legacy on social media.
Even Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia shared his memories about Kobe facing off against the Toronto team as an LA Laker.
"As a Raptors fan I hated what he did on that court to us. I hated his 81 points," Bhatia wrote on Instagram. "I hated watching him weave through us like he was playing at a different speed all together."
"But my god I loved watching him," he continued. "I loved watching every minute of him on that floor. I wished one day he would be on our side."
It goes without saying that Kobe Bryant is a legend whose talents will always be remembered. Twenty Fourever.