January 31, 2020.
One year ago, the basketball world paused and took an evening to remember the legacy of Kobe Bryant who along with his daughter Gianna and seven others died earlier that week in a helicopter crash.
It was the first Lakers game since the tragic event and coincidentally, the Trail Blazers were the opponent at Staples Center.
"It’s tough from an emotional standpoint, but he’s worthy, more than worthy," explained Lillard of the pregame tributes. "That type of love, that type of respect, and that type of honor that was given to him in the first game since it happened. It was only right. Compared to what his family has to deal with it, his closest friends have to do, us having to honor him in that way and then play a game is a small thing."
Once all the pregame tributes were complete, there was still a game to play and then it was Portland guard Damian Lillard who honored Kobe the best way he could: by playing as hard as he could.
Lillard willed a Blazers team starting Wenyen Gabriel to a 127-119 victory over the soon-to-be NBA Champions by scoring 48 points on 17-30 from the field (7-12 from three-point range), 10 assists and nine rebounds.
“It was very tough, very tough to go out there and play after that ceremony, but you’ve got to do your job, and make sure you don’t do a disservice to Kobe and his family and we honor him by going and playing hard, and I think we did that,” said CJ McCollum who scored 19 points in the win.
You can relive the performance here.