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DeMar DeRozan Sparks Spurs 18-Point Comeback Against The Raptors

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While DeMar DeRozan have given the best years of his career to the Toronto Raptors, his best performances in Canada are far from finished.

DeRozan led the San Antonio Spurs to an 18-point comeback win over his former Raptors squad 105-104 on Sunday night.

The former All-Star sank mid-range jumpers and threw down monster dunks on his way to a game-high 25 points and one massive poster dunk over Chris Boucher.

San Antonio forward Rudy Gay followed Derozan’s lead, scoring 15 points and throwing down a thunderous dunk of his own.

The Spurs used a 17-0 run in the fourth quarter to gain the lead with 6:34 left in the contest. After the Raptors made a run of their own to go up 2 points with 41 seconds left, Marco Belinelli drained a massive three-pointer to steal back the victory for San Antonio.

Point guard Kyle Lowry fueled Toronto’s offense with 16 points and season-high 15 assists, while Serge Ibaka added 21 points and a season-high 15 rebounds.

San Antonio’s heroics spoiled the return of Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell as they both made their return to Toronto’s lineup after missing extensive time for their respective injuries.

Siakam wasted no time getting back into rhythm, scoring 12 first-quarter points on his way to 15 points. Powell finished with 20 points and 4 assists.

Despite a disappointing start to the season, Spurs sit only one spot of out playoff position in the Western Conference with a record of 17-21.

For San Antonio to extend their NBA record of 22 consecutive playoff appearances, they will need many more performances like this one from DeRozan.

Basketball

Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie Changes Jersey No. 8 to No. 26 in Honor of Kobe Bryant

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The NBA world was turned upside-down Sunday after we all learned of the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers in a helicopter crash.

Since then, we have watched everyone react to the news, paying tribute to Kobe Bryant’s legacy in many ways as the NBA mourns the loss of one of it’s biggest figures.

Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie is now starting a trend that will likely pick up steam around the NBA, as he is informally retiring Kobe Bryant’s No. 8, by switching his jersey to No. 26.

Dinwiddie wore the No. 8 throughout his entire NBA career up to this point, first with the Detroit Pistons and later with the his current team the Brooklyn Nets.

The 26-year-old guard has been one of the best stories in the NBA over the last couple of years, as the former second round pick has steadily improved into one of the better players in the league.

Dinwiddie went from struggling to find the court in Detroit, to become a fringe All-Star in Brooklyn over the last couple of years. According to Kobe Bryant himself, Dinwiddie is an All-Star.

Now it will be interesting to see who else in the NBA follows suit and decides to change either their No. 8 or No. 24 jersey numbers to honor Bryant.

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Basketball

Mamba Out?! An Initial Reaction

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January 26th was supposed to be the day we all watched his highlights smiling.

It was supposed to be the day we sat around and debated career numbers of greats… When we tried to analyze some series of digits and read between the lines on what it all really meant. It was supposed to be a day of creative digital artistic creations comparing the Mount Rushmore of NBA scoring leaders, of the Nike puppets dapping each other up on jobs well done. 

Saturday night we saw his numbers eclipsed… And Sunday, we lost him.

TMZ first reported, Kobe Bryant was one of five passengers to pass away in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. The helicopter, reportedly, hit a hillside and burst into flames. Reportedly, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi, a young hoops phenom in her own right, also died in the crash.

They, per Woj, were on their way to… Basketball.

Kobe Bryant was 41.  He and Gigi leave behind three young daughters and siblings and wife and mother Vanessa.

Bryant’s name, eerily fittingly, has been in the news a lot lately as LeBron approached him in the record books. Because of their forever comparison, we have had the chance to spend weeks refreshing our memories of Kobe Bryant. We, oddly, got the chance to reflect on Bryant’s accomplishments a lot lately, and could never have understood how timely it was. This weekend was built up to be a passing of the torch, not the passing of an icon.

 The Mamba and The King are inextricably linked. That the two never met in the NBA Finals only makes the comparison that much more hypothetical and debatable. The eerie feeling of seeing this happen to wrap up a week of that comparison only adds to the gut punch that was the TMZ tweet.

Kobe Bryant was not new to helicopters. He, frequently, would take them to staples from his home in Laguna Nigel.

It’s hard to conceptually put together what Kobe Bryant was to basketball… His sneakers sold out in minutes, but so have other athletes. He set records and won championships, but so have other athletes. He had his numbers retired, but so have other athletes. (Though, as LeBron James just reminded us all last night, very few have two numbers retired in the same building).

Kobe’s demeanor and grinding teeth became a part of the lore. His 81-point night is relived every year.

Perhaps the best way to put it is this: when you print this out and crumple it up to throw it away, before throwing it in the recycling, you’re going to instinctively yell “Kobe!”

Whether or not you were a fan of Kobe’s, or the Lakers, Kobe Bryant was almost certainly your favorite basketball player’s favorite basketball player. Fifteen hours before Kobe passed away, 35-year old LeBron James spoke of growing up as a high school kid idolizing Bryant.

In high school, James was lucky enough to be given a pair of his shoes, wore them even though they were a size too small, and took his speeches about hard work to heart.

Just this month, 20-year old Luka Doncic shared a moment with Bryant, in Slovenian, at the Staples Center. Doncic took photos with Kobe and Gigi post game, and that picture has been shared a lot in the hours since the news broke. What has been less shared? A photo of Bryant and Doncic working out together in August of 2018, which Doncic captioned “#MambaMentality” on his Instagram.

Regardless of their age or hometown, every NBA star grew up watching, mimicking, and studying Kobe Bryant. Even 56-year old Michael Jordan took a moment to remember his “little brother” Kobe Bryant today. When talking basketball we talk about generational talents… but we rarely have the idol of multiple generations of talent. 

To call Kobe Bryant a legend seems disingenuous. Legends invoke myths… and legends like Big Foot aren’t real. To many fans, both of the Lakers and the other 29 NBA teams, Kobe was very real. The Dunk Contest was real. The 62 in 3 quarters was real. The 81 points, the five rings, the All Star games, the twin banners in Staples are all real.

His buzzer beaters and flexes on the road broke hearts. His open arms in Staples welcomed confetti and cheers. He wasn’t legendary in the fictitious sense, but in the “I’m going to be the old man telling my grandkids about watching him play” sense.

The news came less than an hour before the NBA Sunday was supposed to get started. Many players, when it broke, are on the court warming up, without their phones or social media. Others are likely reading the news on their phones, sitting in a locker, with his shoes on and half tied.

Some heard the news… and had to warm up anyways. And then they played perhaps the least heartfelt day of NBA basketball ever played.

In San Antonio, a city whose history is marred with battles with Kobe Bryant, they let the opening shot clock run out. The whole 24-second shot clock… 24. Fans chanting Kobe over and over again, both teams up and clapping as Fred Van Vleet dribbled out the clock. Then San Antonio did the same. Several teams followed suit and paid similar homage, some including an 8-second violation for not crossing halfcourt… 8.

Trae Young posted about how excited he was to meet Bryant and Gigi last November. He posted a photo of a signed Bryant jersey in April of 2018. Today? Young traded out his number 11 jersey for a number 8 to start the game, and finished with a 45 point 14 assist night on just 24 shots. 24.

Even the NFL Pro Bowl took a moment for the Mamba

Neymar made sure we all took a moment following his goal for Paris Saint-Germain

Kobe’s legacy is complicated for a number of reasons that cannot be ignored. While those complications add a level of difficulty to grappling with the news of Bryant’s death, his impact on a game that millions upon millions love is undeniable. His place amongst the greats is often debated in bars, barbershops, and on long drives across the country… But his place in those discussions is irrefutable.

We currently watch a generation of players that don’t know an NBA without his touch. Some starters in this year’s All-Star game weren’t born when Bryant debuted as a rookie in the purple and gold.

Kobe Bryant not only impacted these young guns as an inspiration, but was poised to be a part of the game for decades to come. His Detail series with ESPN was a teaching tool for the youth. His promotion of the WNBA on NBA sidelines was intentional and strong. He was involved in non-NBA endeavors, even won an Oscar. Perhaps none of those were even his biggest achievement…

His murals around LA will only multiply and their significance only deepen. What Kobe Bryant did on basketball floors was nothing short of amazing. What Kobe did for the game of basketball is nothing short of essential.

Regardless of your thoughts on Kobe Bryant, if you enjoy basketball he did positively impact your life. Kobe’s determination to put a round ball in a basket ten feet off the ground was inspiring, the work ethic to get that ball in that basket was legendary, and his continued impact felt inevitable.

Now, after this helicopter crash, the question many are left wondering becomes…  what even is “inevitable?”

We thought his impact after playing was inevitable. Kobe’s passion for basketball seemed to only grow in retirement. He was a dedicated fan of the men and women’s game, both collegiately and professional. Kobe and Gigi were seen courtside at some of the biggest NBA, WNBA, and NCAA games the last three years. Bryant’s involvement for another 30+ years of basketball felt like a slam dunk, a swish, a bucket… Felt like, when you throw that crumpled up paper in the receptacle, and shout “Kobe!”

We will all see folks posting their favorite Kobe memories, plays, or moments in the coming days… While those posts may fade away, much like Bryant on the baseline, I’m not sure using his name as an interjection ever will.

For many, with good reason, this was the best highlight.

The legacy and tradition won’t be forgotten. Got this. Rest in Peace, Mamba and young Mambacita.

* mic drop *

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NBA

Tribute to Kobe Bryant: The Black Mamba

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When the news broke that Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter,  Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, passed away in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, I couldn’t believe it.  Kobe meant too much to the game to leave us now and I simply couldn’t believe that this news was true.  I’ve followed Kobe since his High School days at Lower Merion HS, right outside of Philadelphia.  From the McDonalds All American game in 1996 straight to the NBA, Kobe was just different.  He was a student of the game first.  A masterful mind who perfected the game of basketball and brought ‘Mamba Mentality’ to the world.  Everything that  Kobe did was iconic.  From wearing his number 8 and later switching to 24, dropping 81 points on the Raptors, to playing his entire career in a lakers jersey, the list goes on.

It’s the way that he carried himself that made Kobe Bryant special.  His spirit was infectious and people around the globe, even the ones who never met him personally, truly loved him.  He was a true competitor who worked tirelessly on mastering every aspect of his craft.  His attention to detail was uncanny and he fought until the final buzzer sounded every single game.  Kobe took this attitude towards everything that he was involved with and was truly a people’s champion.

The world was in shock when the news broke that Kobe Bryant and his young daughter were killed in a helicopter crash. Photo courtesy of Getty

 Kobe grew up in Italy where his dad “Jellybean” Joe Bryant played professionally.  Kobe not only learned how to speak Italian and a number of other languages, but he learned how to conduct himself as a professional at a young age.  Once he returned to the States and settled in at Lower Merion HS he set his sights on becoming the best High School players in the country.  He slowly started to strategize and chip away at every player who he needed to destroy en route to fulfilling his goal.  By the time he graduated from High School, he was ranked as the top prospect in his class.  McDonald’s All-American, Naismith Prep Player of the Year, First-team Parade All-American, and even though he had the grades, he bypassed college and took his game straight to the NBA from High School.

Kobe was drafted to the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft and was immediately traded to the Lakers.  Nobody really wanted to take a chance on a skinny kid out of High School but when the Lakers traded for him he vowed to make everybody who doubted him pay for not believing in him.  He did just that and it was amazing to watch how he developed and tirelessly worked on his game.  Aside from the 5 Championships that he was able to bring to the Lakers, there were so many accomplishments that he accumulated in purple and gold.  Bryant was an 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA team, 12-time member of the All-Defensive team, 2-time Finals MVP, and the 2008 NBA Most Valuable player, and the list goes on.  The last basketball memory of Kobe is when he scored 60 versus the Utah Jazz in his very last game.  That moment will live on forever.

Kobe passed away a day after Lebron James passed him for possession of 3rd place on All-Time scoring list. Photo Kobe Bryant IG

Every basketball fan knows that Kobe was a great player.  But Kobe was a legend for more reasons than his play on the basketball court.  Bryant’s Dear Basketball won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film the Academy Awards.  The six-minute film that he won the award for is based on a poem Bryant wrote that was published in The Players Tribune in 2015 when he announced his retirement from the NBA.

The world lost a legend. Legends don’t die… They live forever. Kobe made a great impact through sports and by being a great person. Long live Kobe Bryant. Photo courtesy of Kobe Bryant IG

The most important attribute, in my opinion, was his philanthropic ventures and the way he gave back to the kids in communities around the globe.  Recently he made an appearance to the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem, NY as part of their Mamba Academy and spoke to the kids about getting focused and not putting a cap on their dreams and aspirations.  Although I missed his visit, I’m glad he showed up for the children.  Hearing Kobe in person might’ve been the catalyst to changing a kid’s life for the better.  Aside from basketball or sports in general Kobe was just a great human being.  

we would like to send our profound condolences to the Bryant family and anyone else affected by this tragedy.  This is one of the worst days in the history of professional sports and I hope that Kobe and his daughter are truly resting in peace.  The void that you left cannot be filled but we are gracious to have had the opportunity to have been a witness to your greatness.  Sleep easy King and Princess. 💯💔

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