PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Trail Blazers players reacted to the news that NBA legend Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash with a mixture of sadness and incredulity.
"Please don't tell me this is true," tweeted Blazers guard CJ McCollum. "Not Kobe." Second-year guard Anfernee Simons tweeted simply, "NO NO NO NO WAY MAN."
Other Blazers players tweeted similar sentiments.
Officials say nine people were killed in a Southern California helicopter crash, and, according to ESPN, Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter were among them.
The Blazers tweeted a photo and message about Bryant and released a statement: "The entire Trail Blazers organization is shocked and devastated by the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. Kobe's indelible mark on the NBA and the game of basketball globally will live on forever. Our prayers and condolences are with the Bryant family and the other families affected, the Los Angeles Lakers organization and all those that knew and loved Kobe."
No players were available to speak to the media before Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers and both locker rooms were closed before the game.
Head coaches Terry Stotts and Nate McMillan addressed the media before the game.
"Obviously it's a very sad day. Someone like that who's been admired and respected leaves us earlier than he should have, it's sad. The effect he had on basketball around the world, he'll be mourned around the world tonight," Stotts said. "Every player will be affected by it one way or the other. ... Kobe, whether he was a peer or a contemporary like he was with Trevor [Ariza] and Carmelo [Anthony], or he was an idol or an icon to some of our younger players, his impact will be felt by everybody."
Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan had the opportunity to coach against Bryant, but also coached him as an assistant coach in 2006 and 2008 with the U.S. men's basketball team. Before Sunday's game, McMillan said his reaction to the news about Bryant was "extreme sadness."
"Just extreme sadness. Kobe was a great man, a great role model for the NBA, for his generation, for young black men. Just really, extreme sadness," McMillan said. "It's really been a challenge these last few hours to think about anything else."
Before the game, someone posted a sign that read "RIP Kobe" at the Rip City sing outside the Moda Center. Other fans wore Kobe Bryant shoes and Los Angeles Lakers gear and said they were shocked and saddened by the news.
Inside the Moda Center, fans observed a 24-second moment of silence prior to player introductions. Then at the start of the game, the Blazers held the ball for a 24-second shot clock violation and the Pacers followed that with an eight-second shot clock violation. Bryant wore No. 8 and No. 24 during his career.
PLAYERS REACT ON TWITTER
Before Sunday's game, right after the news broke, Blazers players reacted to Bryant's death. Here are their reactions:
- 'Tonight is for Kobe' | Grammys begin with emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant
- Michael Jordan reacts to Kobe Bryant's death: 'He was like a little brother to me'
- Emotional LeBron James seen exiting Lakers' plane after Kobe Bryant's death
- Fans descend on Staples Center to mourn Lakers legend Kobe Bryant
- Viral video of Kobe Bryant with daughter 'Gigi' holds deeper meaning following their untimely deaths
- Celebrities, athletes and politicians react to the death of Kobe Bryant