NEW YORK, N.Y. – Every time Kobe Bryant came to Madison Square Garden, it was an event.
From the 1998 All-Star Game, his first one, to the night of Feb. 2, 2009, when he broke the arena's scoring record, people just wanted to be in the building.
Kyrie Irving couldn't bring himself to play after his friend's death. The ones who took the floor did so with the knowledge that Bryant would have had one expectation.
“Understand that he’d want you to go out there and play — hard," Knicks veteran Taj Gibson said.
Julius Randle, who began his career as Bryant's teammate, had 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead New York to a 110-97 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets were already at the arena when they learned that Bryant and his daughter were among those who had died in a helicopter crash. Irving left after warming up, and at least some people on both sides hoped the game wouldn't be played.
“It was an emotional locker room. It was a quiet locker room. No one spoke for whatever, three hours before we tipped off," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “No one really spoke. Sometimes there are no words and I didn’t have any words to console them."