A wave of sadness fell over the Wells Fargo Center last night as Joel Embiid returned from his injury donning number 24 in memory of the late Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers legend tragically passed away on Sunday morning alongside his thirteen-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers in a Calabasas helicopter crash.
After several games were suspended, including the highly anticipated Lakers vs Clippers matchup yesterday, the 76ers were ready to ball out again in tribute to Bryant. The team honoured the Philadelphia native with an emotional pre-game ceremony and special “Bryant” editions of their white jerseys before they hosted the Warriors.
Joel Embiid returned from a nine-game injury (dislocated ring finger) wearing number 24 on his Philly jersey to drop a team-high 24pts and ten rebounds in the 115-104 win over Golden State.
Yahoo Sports released a post-game statement from Embiid:
“It was tough. Like I keep saying, Kobe meant something different than anybody else. It was tough, but I know just looking at his career and what he was about, that ‘Mamba Mentality.’ It was about outworking your opponent, outworking everybody else and I know he would want everybody to go out and compete hard and play the game and try to win. That’s what he was about. It was tough but that’s how you honour him.”
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The number 24 was originally retired by the 76ers in 1986 to honour Bobby Jones, the five-time All-Star and 11-time All-Defensive Team pick. However, Embiid and the rest of Philly called upon Jones’ legacy last night to aid them in paying respect to Bryant’s own Mamba Mentality.
As the game commenced, the 76ers took an eight-second violation following with Golden State taking a 24-second penalty to acknowledge both of Bryant’s Lakers’ jersey numbers.
Speaking last week for the first time since his surgery, Embiid expressed a need to bring the 76ers back in the standings and was anxious to get back on the court.
Despite D’Angelo Russell’s game-high 28pts, on 10-of-22, his powerful leadership was not enough to power Golden State to a win as a sloppy final quarter led to just 35% shooting from the field.
The 76ers countered on the Warriors struggles, bagging seven quick points in an aggressive fashion at the start of the fourth to move ahead to 93-82. Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris erupted and combined for 17 final frame points to close out the Warriors.
Embiid hit one final fadeaway wearing number 24 to bring his tally to 24 for the night, a fitting salute to the fallen legend, his young basketball queen and the beloved families on board the helicopter.