In a game where Joel Embiid traded in his No. 21 jersey for one reading No. 24, his stat sheet had to end with 24 points.
Embiid was appearing in his first contest since Jan. 6 when he dislocated his left finger and he chose to honor Kobe Bryant by wearing his famed number. The big man played 26 minutes, pulled down 10 rebounds and tallied 24 points.
None of those points more meaningful than a late-game fadeaway that resembled the one Bryant made famous for 20 years. At first, it seemed like a mere coincidence. After the game, Embiid provided context as he confirmed it was meant to honor the fallen legend.
Not only that, the Sixers star even yelled out “Kobe” as he was fading away. It was something he’s been doing since he was a kid on the playground in Cameroon. Embiid had been using Kobe’s name to trash talk for years.
“The 24th point, as I shot that fadeaway, you know, that’s what he was all about,” Embiid told reporters. “I actually yelled Kobe. Since I started playing basketball that’s how we’ve always done it, you know, you shoot something in the trash and you just yell ‘Kobe’ … so that was cool and then for it to be 24th point and for me wearing 24 means a lot.”
Sixers Beat Golden State Warriors 115 to 104
The Sixers picked up their second straight win, and sixth victory in their last seven contests, following a 115-104 win over Golden State. It was too close for comfort early until it wasn’t late.
In an emotional night dedicated to Lower Merion native Kobe Bryant, the Sixers needed almost a full half of basketball before they really got going. The game marked the highly-anticipated debut of former first-round pick Zhaire Smith who was recently called up from the G-League. He finished with three points in 10 tough minutes while reserve point guard Raul Neto went for 19 points in 21 minutes. Joel Embiid scored a team-high 24 points, with Ben Simmons chipping in 17 on what many considered a down night (read: no triple-double).
But Tuesday’s game was more about remembering Kobe Bryant than just playing basketball. The Sixers started the contest by allowing eight seconds to run off the clock, an ode to Bryant’s No. 8 — and then the Warriors let 24 seconds run off the clock, a sign of respect to Bryant’s No. 24. It was a stirring tribute and one that the Philly faithful at the Wells Fargo Center reaffirmed when they started a raucous “Kobe” chant.
Sixers Hold Moment of Silence for Kobe
Philadelphia was Kobe Bryant’s hometown and it showed on Tuesday night. There were just as many Lower Merion and Los Angeles Lakers jerseys as there were Sixers ones. It was the utmost sign of appreciation for arguably the city’s greatest basketball player.
The Sixers positioned Bryant’s retired Lower Merion basketball jersey at center court as the huge videoboard listed the names of all nine victims from that doomed helicopter flight. They held a moment of silence and spotlighted nine empty silhouettes on the court to represent the nine lives lost. Then, nine chimes rang out to take the place of the lone bell ring that normally ushers in the start of a game in South Philadelphia.
There was one more stirring tribute to the Black Mamba when the scoreboard flashed Bryant’s smiling face and replayed the starting lineup announcement from Dec. 1, 2015. That was the last time Bryant suited up as a member of the Lakers and played against his hometown Sixers.
The stadium announcer shouted out: “Introducing the 2008 MVP, the two-time NBA Finals MVP, the five-time NBA champion, a 6-6 guard from Lower Merion High School where he won the title in 1996, No. 24 Kobe Bryant.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.