The emotions were strong at both Timberwolves and Kings shootaround Monday morning in advance of their game at Target Center.
The death of Kobe Bryant has hit players across the league hard -- those that knew him, played with him and against him or just grew up admiring him.
Wolves coach Ryan Saunders fought back tears when talking about Bryant wearing a Flip Saunders shirt as the Wolves played their first game against the Lakers after Flip’s death in 2015.
“It’s hard to wrap your head around right now with everything,” Saunders said. “I know these guys, we tried to be as business as usual, because as competitors and the competitor that Kobe was, that’s what he’d say. You've got to compete. But it affects all of us greatly.”
Here are some other reactions from shootaround:
From Kings coach Luke Walton, a teammate of Bryant’s with the Lakers:
“Been one of the harder times of my life the last 24 hours. Kobe was a friend, a teammate, most importantly a father. I know that’s what was most important to him. The love he had for his family and his daughters is heartbreaking and it’s tough to deal with, honestly. The basketball world, we lost one of our greats, and I don’t just mean that by what he did on the court, but just the way he lived his life. Every day he got the most out of it. … I don’t know if I’ve fully accepted it, but it’s really hard to think that we don’t have him with us anymore.”
Wolves forward Robert Covington, who played against Bryant once when Covington was with the 76ers:
“After the game, we had that moment where we got to talking at center court and he told me within those moments that I had the opportunity to be a very good player in this game. He was like, ‘I like your work ethic. I like your hustle. I like how you carry yourself.’ Within that I took from a big change in my life. I understand that someone that I looked up to tell me those positive words of encouragement, he was like stick with it. You got an opportunity to be someone great in this league. You can be someone that can really change the game. Just stay with it and just overall just keep going. Don’t give up because like you said you got a real nice opportunity. Those words really stuck with me.”
Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, who said Bryant “was my childhood:”
“It was already a horrific thing that Kobe died. It was pure tragedy that Gigi was part of it, and all the other people that were a part of it, as well, there were youngsters, as well, that also lost their lives. That’s what really hurt me yesterday, because you try to do so much, especially for kids, to inspire the next generation, and she was on her way to doing great things, and I know if Kobe had it any other way, he would’ve had just him on that helicopter instead of all the others, especially his daughter. And if I was in that situation, I would’ve done anything possible to have my kid off of it.”
Wolves President Gersson Rosas:
“The NBA is a family and any time you have a loss, a tragic loss of this nature, you talk about from the human aspect of it. There’s a wife who lost her husband, lost her daughter. Three daughters who lost their father, lost their sister and that affects all of us. … From a human aspect, and we’re not even talking about basketball, the legend that he is and what he meant to this game it really leaves a hole for our NBA family.”