Approximately 20,000 people attended the Celebration of Life ceremony at the Staples Center on Monday honoring the life and career of Kobe Bryant. Many past and present athletes were in attendance, from Michael Jordan, who broke down in tears during his speech, to Shaquille O'Neal, who used humor to share his story, to Stephen Curry.
Following the conclusion of the memorial, the Rockets players quickly boarded a jet to make it back to Houston for their 8 p.m. game against the New York Knicks, according to head coach Mike D'Antoni.
"I think it's great [they attended]," D'Antoni told reporters. "Everybody has to do what they feel they need to do and I'm proud of our guys that they felt they needed to go."
Per Mike D’Antoni, the jet carrying James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and P.J. Tucker is landing in Houston now. All three attended today’s Kobe Bryant memorial service in Los Angeles.February 24, 2020
During the NBA All-Star festivities, the Houston-Chronicle shared how Harden viewed Bryant as a "big brother."
"He was like a big brother to me," Harden said. "Any time somebody asked me who my idol is, who I grew up watching and idolizing, it’s Kobe. I have so many memories."
In that same story, Westbrook said that "out of respect" to the Bryant family he would not be talking about the tragedy. In an Instagram post he shared on Feb. 1, the former Oklahoma City star shared just how important Bryant was to him.
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"I am devastated about the passing of Kobe & Gigi, on every level," said Westbrook, who admitted in the post that he had been at a loss of words since their passing. "I met Kobe when I was 16 at UCLA playing against him in a pick up game. He played like it was the NBA finals. From that point on, I decided that I wanted to emulate his Mamba mentality. At the time, there was no name for it, but I recognized in him what I always felt in myself. He became a friend, a brother, a mentor, a teacher, he defended me, he believed in me, and he taught me how to weather the storm. I can go on and on, but I want to thank you for being my idol, & inspiration. I will pray for you and your family everyday just as I do my own."