Joel Embiid didn’t want to miss this game, the first contest in Philadelphia since Kobe Bryant tragically passed away. He made a return from a nine-game absence to start for the Sixers tonight and he is wearing No. 24 to commemorate Bryant.
The Sixers took an 8-second violation while the Warriors took a 24-second shot clock violation to begin the game as the crowd chanted “Kobe! Kobe!…”
Embiid got special permission to wear No. 24 in honor of his idol. The number is already retired by the team, as Bobby Jones had his digits retired by Philadelphia previously.
Other Philadelphia Kobe Tributes
The Sixers shined nine lights on the court, one for each life lost. The team also rang nine bells and has a 33-second moment of silence prior to the game (Kobe wore no. 33 at Lower Marion high school).
Each member of the Sixers came out pregame in either a No. 8 or No. 24 jersey to honor Bryant.
They also showed the video of Bryant’s last intro in Philadelphia. The video was shown prior to the Sixers-Lakers tilt back on December 1, 2015, which was Bryant’s last game in Philadelphia.
Players Honoring Bryant in Different Ways
As we passed along earlier today, multiple NBA players are informally retiring Kobe’s No. 8 and No. 24 jersey. Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who grew up in Los Angeles idolizing Bryant, is among the players to make a change, as he plans to go from No. 8 to No. 26.
Former Sixers big man Jahlil Okafor will also make a change from his No. 8 jersey. No word on whether Zhaire Smith, who dons No. 8 for Philadelphia, will change his number, though he wore No. 7 tonight.
Typically, if NBA players want to change their number (as Kobe did years ago), the process is making a request to the league and then, the player must wait a year to get his new number. Per Marc Stein of the New York Times, the league has granted Dinwiddie the ability to switch numbers this year. Other players are likely to have the same ability.
Pacers forward Alize Johnson is not changing his number from No. 24. He says he will continue to wear the number as a tribute to Kobe. “You need that role model coming up and for me, it was God and him,” Johnson said.
Draymond Green said he didn’t feel comfortable talking about Bryant. “I don’t really want to talk about it. I’m trying to escape it. I’m not a mental health expert, so I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. I don’t want to talk about Kobe. I want to talk to Kobe,” Green said.
The Warriors were in contact with the Sixers prior to tonight’s contest about the various ways the team could honor Bryant, who went high school nearby.