01/28/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/27/2020 21:09
OKLAHOMA CITY - As he splashed some talcum powder on his hands and dabbed his eyes with the sleeve of his warmup shirt, Tim Hardaway Jr. was like all the other players and coaches Monday night in the NBA.
After a moment of silence to honor Kobe Bryant, everybody at Chesapeake Energy Arena clearly was emotional.
They still were in disbelief and that Bryant is no longer with us. The basketball world will never be the same and that much was evident in the mood for the Mavericks' first game since Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles.
In difficult, emotional times like this, people tend to remember the most impactful moments of an athlete or anybody else.
Rick Carlisle was no different.
'We competed directly with him and the Lakers on our (championship) run in 2011,' Carlisle said. 'I've seen four or five people on the basketball court that strike fear, just by looking in their eyes. He was one of those people.
'When we got up 3-0 in that series and I saw his press conference after game 3 and he sat there and said, 'Call me crazy, but I actually think we're going to win this series.' If you think I got any sleep that night, you're crazy. Of course his teammates were pretty much cooked, but he showed up in Game 4 and played like a champion like he always did.
'It was just part of his drive.'
It's the kind of drive coaches wish every player had. But not everybody does - at least not in the endless supply that Bryant did.
The Mavericks continued to grieve in their own way on Monday. Most Mavericks had messages on their shoes.
The game against Oklahoma City started with the Mavericks winning the tap, then taking an 8-second backcourt violation. OKC then inbounded and took a 24-second shot-clock violation. Those numbers, 8 and 24, were worn by Bryant during his NBA career.
Owner Mark Cuban was seated courtside before the game and was asked about the Mavericks' decision to never have a player wear No. 24 again.
Cuban said he consulted with Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and others before making the decision.
Cuban also said that decision would not impact any decision in the future about retiring the No. 24 jersey of Mark Aguirre, should the franchise ever decide to do so.
Bryant's No. 24 will not hang in the rafters. It just won't be worn anymore.
Carlisle said he and most of the Mavericks players were in the team's meal room at their OKC hotel when news broke of the tragedy. Everybody's cell phone seemed to buzz at once.
'Everybody simultaneously said, 'Nah, this can't be right. There's no way,' ' Carlisle said. 'And then of course we found out.
'Yesterday was very difficult for everyone in the NBA family. It's an unfathomable loss. You're talking about a guy who was a cultural icon, one of the greatest athletes to ever play in any sport. And a guy who over a two-decade period pushed everybody to a higher level. The loss, it resonates on so many levels. And then you talk about the loss of family, as well.
'We've got to find a way to move forward and move past it. But it's not an easy one.'
Carlisle said it forced everybody to reflect on the really important things in life. He said he called his daughter twice after it happened, spoke to his wife many times and reached out to so many others.
It was a ritual repeated by so many people on Sunday.
'You have to reflect back and be grateful for what we all have and how blessed we are because you don't know when it will all be taken away,' Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. 'The teams yesterday, it was probably a little different when the news just hit and you had to play a game. Our guys have spent some time to digest it, not that that makes it any easier.
'Obviously, the news yesterday shook everybody. Kobe was not that far removed from retirement, so a lot of these guys have played against him, a lot of these guys have known him personally. And if guys are younger, he's certainly a guy they looked up to. It's a sad day all the way around with the game losing an iconic player, a true champion, a true competitor and besides even that, it's just sad for his family and other loved ones that were lost. Nationally, it really shook our country to the core in a lot of ways. It's so sad to see.'