Left to right, Houston Rockets center Tyson Chandler, guard Austin Rivers, and striker PJ Tucker respond to an NBA tribute to Kobe Bryant Basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in Denver on Sunday, January 26, 2020. Bryant died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday (AP Photo / David Zalubowski)
DENVER – Colorado was the epicenter of Kobe Bryant's worst moment, but even in Denver, in a building where he was frequently booed, there were tears and stunned silence.
It started with a moment of silence for the NBA giant, who was killed in an helicopter crash about an hour before the game and to chants of “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe! "
The game became secondary on this melancholy Sunday at the Pepsi Center when the Denver Nuggets were held by the Houston Rockets 117-110.
"I have to be honest, I didn't think when we lost, we lost the game," said Austin Rivers missile watcher. "This pain will not go away so quickly. You don't even have to be a basketball fan to feel it. "
In 2003, Bryant was accused of sexually abusing a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He had said the two had consensual sex and the charges were finally dropped. The woman later filed a civil suit against Bryant, which was settled out of court. Bryant's admiration remained strong in Los Angeles even under the allegations.
But not so much in Denver, where his appearance has been eaten for years by fans who have heard more about Bryant's case than in other NBA cities.
The mood was bleak all afternoon.
Some of the Denver players were sitting in their lockers before the game, staring at their phones in disbelief when details of Bryant's death appeared. 41-year-old Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among the nine dead in the crash near Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Houston players Tyson Chandler and P.J. Tucker was visibly upset during the tribute while Rivers covered his eyes with his arm. Rivers also paid homage to Bryant on his shoes. So did Tucker, who wrote: "There will never be another."
“This is anything but difficult. I have no words, "said Tucker." There will never be another person like him. I'm still trying to process it. … I can't even remember much of the game. I'm sorry. Just meant now not much. "
Nikola Jokic said he got goose bumps when he heard about Bryant's death.
"I couldn't believe it," said Jokic, who finished the season's ninth triple double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. "He is not just a legend here, he is a legend all over the world. We have lost a huge person, a role model. It is a great loss for everyone."
Jokic gave everything in honor of the player with the nickname Black Mamba.
"When you think of Kobe, it is" no excuse. Nothing can stop you from doing what you like to do, ”said Jokic. "It's definitely the Mamba mentality."
Like many others in the league, Jerami named Grant Bryant his favorite player.
"He watched everything he did on the pitch outside of the pitch as he did," said Grant, who scored 25 points in the season. "It is extremely hard."
The first half remained a blur for Michael Porter Jr. as he processed his feelings. He remembered meeting Bryant at a Nike camp when the superstar offered encouragement.
"We all look up to him," said Porter, who scored 17 points to help the Nuggets even with the Houston season. "I didn't think it was real."
Russell Westbrook scored 22 of his 32 points in the second half. Eric Gordon added 19 points and Ben McLemore scored 15 in the absence of top scorer James Harden, who retired with an injured left thigh.
When the last horn sounded, the reality of Bryant's death returned.
"It is devastating. It hurt to the core," Gordon said. "It was difficult to listen to such news before the game. It was difficult to hear such news before the game – one Man you admire, man you looked up to. "
Missiles: Westbrook had 10 sales. Clint Capela made 12 rebounds.
Nuggets: It was Jokic's 37th triple-double career. Morris finished 17th. The Nuggets were without Jamal Murray (left ankle sprain), Paul Millsap (injured left knee) and Mason Plumlee (right foot).
Rockie's all-star shortstop Trevor Story used up the free throw before play with a pair of Kobe Bryant shoes. Story has always been a big Bryant fan.
"The way he played the game was so inspiring to me," said Story. "The Mamba mentality, you're trying to imitate it. The intensity with which he played was so special. "
Missiles: Monday in Utah. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni dubbed Harden doubtful for the game against jazz and added that Westbrook would suspend it.
Nuggets: Tuesday in Memphis. The Nuggets are 2-0 against the Grizzlies this season.
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