NEW ORLEANS — It was an emotional night in the Smoothie King Center.
The sudden death of NBA all-time great Kobe Bryant was on everyone's mind as the Pelicans tipped off against the Celtics Sunday night. Even for players who never met him.
"At first it was a little difficult," Zion Williamson said. "I couldn’t focus at first."
Zion Williamson never had the chance to meet Kobe Bryant during his young NBA career, but he idolized the Lakers' star guard growing up.
"I had both jerseys 8 and 24 growing up, I studied his footwork game because I respected his," Williamson said. "His footwork was such a big part of his game, allowed him to get to his spots. The fade away … as easy as it looked, as he makes it look, it's one of the hardest things to do."
Bryant was a five time NBA Champion, 18-time NBA All-Star and two-time NBA Finals MVP. Bryant is also the fourth-highest scoring point leader in NBA history.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among the nine people killed in a Southern California helicopter crash Sunday afternoon. He was 41-years-old.
"One of the greatest taken away from us too soon," Williamson said. "His impact will forever be a part of this game. He’s a legend. Legends never die."