DENVER — Fans described a somber mood at the Nuggets game on Sunday as Kobe Bryant was honored with a moment of silence.
“I was happy that the Nuggets did a tribute for him, because even though he’s not everyone’s favorite player — he’s a great player,” said Nuggets fan Mark Foster, as he was leaving the game Sunday.
“We were kind of taken aback by the news right as we were going in. I’ve played basketball my whole life and watched basketball—watched Kobe Bryant,” Foster added.
The Denver Nuggets honored Kobe Bryant before Sunday’s matchup against the Houston Rockets, with the silence quickly followed by chanting.
“They were chanting, ‘Kobe, Kobe’ in the game — probably non-Kobe fans were chanting, not even Lakers fans,” said Nuggets fan Austin Davis.
“It was more of a respect thing, if you’re a basketball lover,” his dad, Ronnie Davis, added.
Longtime Lakers fan Greg Harline paid tribute outside the Pepsi Center.
“My memories go back to when him and Shaq won the title,” Harline told FOX31.
“I saw Kobe play here I think three times since living in Denver — but that’s not enough,” he said, looking at the entrance of the Pepsi Center.
“Even my son called me and said that he was crying — and he’s 22,” he added.
Harline and his wife, Kathleen, were showing friends around Denver when the news broke. They decided to make an extra stop outside the Pepsi Center.
“He was just kind of coming into a whole other part of his life with his family and his businesses, everything he was doing — and he’s just gone. That’s hard to fathom,” Harline said.
The news was just as difficult for some Nuggets fans who chose to leave the game early on Sunday.
“The energy was sucked out of that stadium. Then we found out his daughter was on that flight also. So that took the whole life out of the game after that,” Austin Davis said after walking out late in the third quarter.
“One thing you could tell about Kobe is he loved the competition, loved the sport,” said Foster, who left midway through the fourth quarter. “So, I think just coming out and honoring him like they did — but trying to enjoy a game of basketball — is what he would want, and what we tried to do.”
Fans are now having to come to terms with the fact that the NBA legend was one of nine people who lost their lives in the crash.
“It sucks. It’s really tough. What do you say?” Harline said. “Your heart goes out to his family and his surviving children, and his daughter who was passed with him — and of course, the people who passed along with him.”
Kobe Bryant played his last game at the Pepsi Center in early March 2016, making headlines for sticking around afterward to give two autographed pairs of shoes to a couple young fans.