The day was going nice and smooth for Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose team was preparing to take on the Orlando Magic. But after visiting his son Austin Rivers, he received the devastating news that Kobe Bryant may have been involved in a helicopter crash. The tragedy had also taken the life of Kobe’s eldest daughter, and a few others.
After this news, the atmosphere in the Clippers dressing room was flat at half-time. Rivers and his coaching staff themselves couldn’t focus on the game, and tactics and strategic play calls went out the window that day. Rivers’ then assistant and now the head coach, Ty Lue, couldn’t contain his tears because he and Kobe were teammates during the Lakers‘ famous three-peat in the early 200s.
“I swear for me that whole game, I just could not get my mind off it,” Rivers said. “Just what happened, the tragedy of that, you know how your mind goes there. And then Vanessa… that was crushing for me, being a parent.”
Kawhi Leonard rallied his team through the Kobe Bryant tragedy
Kawhi Leonard is often chastised for his lack of leadership. However, on that fateful day, he rose to the occasion and uplifted the spirits of his somber teammates. He channeled his inner Mamba mentality according to Rivers, who said, “I think it was Kawhi in the middle of the third you could just see him say, ‘I’m not losing this game.’”
But other than this, nobody cared much for the match or its outcome.
“Even one of the refs made just an awful call, and I didn’t say anything and he looked over and I was like, ‘What do you want me to do, bro?’ And he actually said, I can’t think of his name, he said, ‘Man, I don’t have anything tonight.’ It affected everybody,” said Rivers.
While the Clippers emerged victorious, they would have gladly traded the win away to undo the whole tragedy. The whole basketball world was in mourning that day. Today, on Kobe’s death anniversary, it all feels as fresh as if it had happened yesterday.
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