Blazers’ Damian Lillard reflects on his memories with Lakers great Kobe Bryant
On a tragic Sunday, basketball players and fans mourned Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s untimely passing. Teams that night paid tribute to the five-time NBA champion with eight-second and 24-second violations, Twitter tributes, postgame interviews, and emotional dedications. Damian Lillard was one of the players who spoke of his memories with the Black Mamba. On a post-game interview, he told reporters that his first career game was against the retired 18-time All-Star, and that he had been unusually nervous upon walking on the court.
"My very first game of my career was against Kobe…I don't really get nervous, butterflies…but I walked on the court and was like, that's Kobe over there" @Dame_Lillard on his Kobe Bryant memories #kobe #mamba pic.twitter.com/pOeiMlzZYy
— Orlando Sanchez (@orlandokgw) January 27, 2020
Before Sunday night’s game, Moda Center had 24 seconds of silence, with many fans wearing Lakers jerseys in salute. Lillard and the Blazers also honored the celebrated shooting guard in the first possession by taking a 24-second shot clock violation. The Pacers then reciprocated and held an eight-second backcourt violation, an homage to the jersey number he wore for the first half of an illustrious two-decade career.
Lillard had previously tweeted about his admiration for Kobe Bryant. Consequently, he also spoke about the tragic news courtside before the game against the Pacers, recalling how he went from being a fan, to a peer, then eventually a friend.
“It’s the last thing in the world you think you’re going to wake up and see. And to see that, it’s a huge loss for the world, a huge loss for the game of basketball, but most importantly for his family … There’s definitely going to be a hole in this game going forward that can’t be replaced.”
The Portland Trailblazers point guard eventually led his team that night with a continued scoring tear of 50 points, even adding 13 assists.