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Chris Paul didn’t suit up Monday night, despite the fact that a win over Dallas would leapfrog the Thunder over the Mavs and give OKC the playoff tiebreaker.
Because, who cares.
While the world lost a global icon and living legend on Sunday morning, Paul lost a dear friend.
#7 seed or #5 seed, five game win streak, holding off postseason wannabes from taking the Thunder’s playoff spot. All of those once hot social media topics seemed silly on Monday night when we all knew there were a wife and three kids who were without a husband and father, a daughter and sister.
More than watching Lu DPOY Dort defend Luka MVP Doncic or seeing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander glide to the rim or declaring a winner in an epic Steven Adams vs Kristaps Porzingis battle, the biggest interest in tonight’s game was how the two teams would honor Kobe.
A still picture of Kobe emblazoned the jumbo sized screen on the outside wall of the Chesapeake Energy Arena hours before tipoff.
SGA showed up to the arena rocking a Kobe #8 Lakers jersey along with Bryant’s signature shoes.
Doncic wrote Kobe’s, Gianna’s and the other seven victims’ names on his sneakers.
The Thunder had a moment of silence in Kobe’s honor, while his picture adorned the jumbotron.
Rumble lifted a single finger to the sky in honor of Bryant before he started his customary crowd hype drumroll.
The Mavericks won the tip and held the ball until they were hit with an 8 second violation.
Loud City chanted “Kobe!” as if he were one of their past MVP’s.
The Thunder held the ball for a 24 second violation.
After that, it was basketball as usual. The Mavs led throughout most of the game, but the Thunder still impressed with their trademark will and fight. In the end, the Thunder put forth a valiant effort despite missing CP3, Terrance Ferguson, Abdel Nader and Steven Adams. I know Adams played, but until he looks like he could beat Dirk Nowitski in a foot race, I’m not counting him.
The Thunder veterans such as Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel played against Kobe Bryant and will forever cherish those memories as gifts as the years pass on.
The Thunder young guns such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, Hamidou Diallo and Lu Dort never played against Kobe, but he was their generation’s Michael Jordan. They grew up idolizing him.
The Thunder fans, who once begrudged Kobe only because his greatness was so difficult for our up and coming team to vanquish, transformed over the years from bitterness to nothing but respect and gratitude for his game, his character and his influence.
But Chris Paul knew Kobe and Gianna. While I’m sure he will undoubtedly hold the in-game memories dear just as his teammates will do, Paul’s relationship with Kobe extended far beyond the court. We all admired Kobe from afar. CP3 loved Kobe up close.
The Thunder may have been able to muster up a win tonight had their leader and best player been out on the court to help guide them. But Chris Paul’s absence was not the missing presence we all felt tonight, and the Thunder’s defeat was not the loss that was on all our minds.
Rest easy, Kobe Bean and Gianna Maria Onore Bryant.