Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Portland Trail Blazers in the first game since Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. This was the tribute night that honored Bryant and his daughter Gianna, and it featured thousands of fans wearing shirts bearing the late NBA icon's numbers. However, many fans spent the game searching for actor Jack Nicholson.
The actor, known for his roles in The Departed and The Shining, has long been a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and has been a constant presence sitting courtside during games. He was always around during Bryant's 20-year career, and the fans expected that this attendance would continue during the tribute night.
"Great Kobe tribute at Staples Center. Is Jack Nicholson at the game tonight? Spotted @RobertWuhl courtside," one fan on social media wrote. Others reacted by asking why Nicholson would miss this truly emotional game on the Lakers schedule.
"I'm curious to see Jack Nicholson's reaction to the Kobe tribute tonight," another user wrote on Twitter. "I'm betting he's bawling like a baby. Man loved him some Kobe. #MambaMentality #KobeForever #KobeRIP #KobeandGianna #LakerNation."
Nicholson has been a Lakers fan for decades, but he had a special seat for the Bryant years. He spoke with CBS Los Angeles in a rare interview following the NBA icon's death and revealed his true feelings after this tragic incident. He also spoke about his familiarity with Bryant's shooting style.
"My reaction is the same as almost all of L.A.," Nicholson said. "Where we think everything's solid, there's a big hole in the wall. I was used to seeing and talking to Kobe that… it kills you. It's just a terrible event.
"I sat right behind his jump shot on the left-hand side," Nicholson continued. "I can see him going up and I can tell the first instant if it's going in. I remember the totality of how great a player he was… We'll think of him all the time and we'll miss him."
The 82-year-old actor watched all of Bryant's career and saw his growth from a promising young player into the seasoned veteran and champion. He was present for the 18 seasons in which Bryant was named an All-Star, as well as the NBA Finals wins. Nicholson is well aware of the impact that was made on his favorite team and will never forget Bryant.
(Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)