The world lost a Superhero.
And his daughter.
And just after that poignant, adorable video had gone viral over the internet the past month, of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. It was as if they were part of our collective family.
— 𝟭𝟭-𝟯𝟳 (@MomoVastine) December 27, 2019
And there was this:
— Vonte Brown (@_KingOfOneself) January 26, 2020
The Show Became The Tribute
And they played a basketball game. The show must go on. As Kobe probably would have wished. And each NBA game across the nation, became a tribute to Kobe.
The Brooklyn Nets got the ball first, and held the ball to let the 24 second clock expire on purpose, in tribute to Kobe’s original uniform #24. The Knicks did the same when they received the ball. Every team across all NBA games did the same thing. The fans, many wearing Kobe uniforms, chanted his name. As if he was on the court. A final farewell.
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) January 27, 2020
And so the show went on. They played basketball. And the fans — watched. Did not applaud much, especially in the first half, even as the hometown Knicks played an excellent basketball game against the rival Nets. It was a silent night.
Randle Channeled His Inner Kobe
Julius Randle, who had played with Kobe for 2 years and was a friend — had his best night of the season, seeming to channel an inner Kobe. In the 4th quarter he was boss; driving baseline for not layups but SLAMS in traffic — again and again; spinning and winning; hitting jumpers, blocking shots on D. He finished 10-22 for 22 points, 15 rebounds.
The game see-sawed until the Knicks took charge late in the 3rd quarter into the 4th quarter, with DEFENSE and led by the offense of Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Taj Gibson inside, Marcus Morris, and Frank Ntilikina — who was hitting his jumper.
Mitchell Robinson (6-6, 12 pts, a +12) dominated with alley oop slams, offensive rebound slams, defense, and rebounding. On one play in the 4th he reached to the moon with an outstretched back to snare an offensive rebound, and then SLAMMED it home. Marcus Morris was hitting clutch jumper after clutch jumper — the 15-foot straight away a gimme for him; he finished with 21 pts on 9-18. Taj Gibson played a very tough interior game on the bigger Jarrett Allen inside. Gibson had 11 pts (5-8 shooting) 7 rebounds and a +9 in 24 minutes to Allen’s 5 points, 5 rebounds in 32 minutes.
Coach Miller Adjustments Freed Up Mitch for Alley Oops Again
Elfrid Payton was a big part of the action; distributing and defending. The Knicks ran two plays in the 4th where Randle drove left baseline, stopped and dished to Payton under the basket, who drew the D and flipped to a stalking Mitchell Robinson in the lane for a SLAM. All of it the clear handiwork of coach Mike Miller to open up alley oops for Robinson.
Kevin Knox twice hit Robinson for alley oop slams — one pass came from almost midcourt on the break. And Reggie Bullock (4-8 for 10 pts), Bobby Portis (3-6 for 6 pts), and Damyean Dotson (2-3 for 4 pts) all played well. A total team effort by the Knicks.
The Knicks built and maintained a 12- to 14-point cushion throughout the 4th quarter.
For the Nets, Spencer Dinwiddie did his best to try and get the Nets back in it in the 4th– attacking the basket and finishing with 23 pts (7-17, 7-10 from free throw line). Caris LeVert was attacking the basket in the 4th as well, drawing fouls, but had a horrible night shooting (2-12, 0-6 from 3 for 7 pts). Rodions Kurucs broke through for some drives but missed badly on some 3’s. Much of that was due to the Knicks pressuring the 3-point shooters and just playing excellent team defense all night.
Silent Night, Holy Night
You won’t see any of the above in video highlight vignettes — no NBA teams or outlets posted highlights of last night’s games in honor of Kobe. After the game, coach Mike Miller was not asked any questions about the basketball game itself — just questions on how it was in the locker room after hearing the Kobe news, and how the team prepared for the game. This questioning was also to honor Kobe — the game itself held meaningless interest.
It was a silent night. Holy night.