Moda Center was lit in purple. The arena stood in silence. Damian Lillard dribbled the basketball to half court, then held it for 24 seconds.
The Portland Trail Blazers tonight paid tribute to longtime rival Kobe Bryant, who was killed this morning in a helicopter crash outside Calabasas, Calif., along with eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Bryant, 41, played 20 years for the Los Angeles Lakers, and spent much of his career tormenting the Blazers and their fan base with dominant play. But his sudden, horrific death left fans and players—some who knew Bryant, and many who grew up idolizing him—shaken.
"I don't even know how we're supposed to play this game tonight," Lillard said to sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam before taking on the Indiana Pacers. "It's just one of those things that make you sick to your stomach."
The Blazers aired a tribute video on the Jumbotron, and fans remained silent for 24 seconds. (Bryant wore No. 24 on his jersey.) As other NBA teams had done throughout the day, the Blazers let the 24-second shot clock expire without taking a shot.
Coach Terry Stotts cried.
Bryant died this morning when the helicopter carrying him, his second-eldest daughter and seven others to a youth basketball game crashed into a hillside in foggy conditions. Players across the league, including several Blazers, reacted with baffled horror, and Los Angelenos gathered outside that city's arena to leave notes and flowers.
Nike, the Oregon sportswear giant and Bryant's longtime sponsor, issued a statement.
"Along with millions of athletes and fans throughout the world, we are devastated by today's tragic news," it read. "We extend our deepest sympathies to those closest to Kobe, especially his family and friends. He was one of the greatest athletes of his generation and has had an immeasurable impact on the world of sport and the community of basketball. He was a beloved member of the Nike family. We will miss him greatly. Mamba forever."
Sabrina Ionescu, the Oregon Ducks women's basketball star, was a protege of Bryant. She wrote the number 24 on the heel of her sneakers for today's game against Oregon State.
"Everything I do, I do it for him," she said. "This season is for him."