It was an emotional atmosphere in Los Angeles last night as the Minnesota Timberwolves visited the Staples Center to open their 2015-16 season against the Lakers, just days after the tragic passing of their leader Flip Saunders.
The T'Wolves, in paying respect to the legendary coach who lost his battle to cancer this week, wore special shooting shirts honoring Saunders' memory - depicting the 'We before Me' mantra he had looked to instill in his team.
And, in a show of solidarity, Minnesota's hosts, led by Kobe Bryant, also donned their own specially designed shirts during the warm up.
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Bryant, speaking earlier this week on how he would remember Saunders, spoke fondly of his passion for the game and friendly rivalry they had had when Kobe was on the court against one of Flip's teams.
And it was a nice touch for Kobe and the Lakers to extend their support into opening night after so many current and former players had expressed their sadness at Saunder's death this week.
After the emotion of the pre-game, the contest itself was a hard-fought one in which Kobe and the Lakers turned their focus to getting off to a winning start. Saunders would have begrudgingly appreciated their efforts as they sprang out to a 31-22 lead after the first quarter.
But, in a fitting tribute to their mentor, the Timberwolves rallied to secure a 112-111 win on the road.
The game itself was a big one for Bryant too, as he made his return from a nine-month injury layoff to make NBA history. The veteran is now the only player to have appeared for the same franchise in 20 straight NBA seasons.