There have been so many remembrances this week of Kobe Bryant, who died tragically at 41, one of nine victims of Sunday’s helicopter accident in California. Bryant was one of the NBA’s all-time greats, and teams have been honoring him in various ways.
Every NBA player seems to have a memory of Bryant, whether it was playing against him or watching him perform. Backup Sixers point guard Raul Neto, who had 19 points Tuesday, all in the first half, played in Bryant’s final game, a true NBA classic.
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Neto, who is from Brazil, says he will always remember Bryant’s last game, which took place April 13, 2016 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.. Bryant went out a winner as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated Neto’s Utah Jazz, 101-96, with Bryant dropping 60 points.
“The way the game went, it is something I will take with me the rest of my life," Neto said after Tuesday’s win.
What stood out for Neto was Bryant’s fierce determination. He wasn’t one to just play out the string.
“Just the way he approached the game, it is something I can remember like yesterday,” Neto said. “I remember his face and the way he loved the game, the way he played that game with so much passion — it showed me the love he has for the game.”
Another part of the game that remains etched in Neto’s memory bank is the fourth quarter. The Lakers outscored Utah, 35-21 in the quarter, with Bryant scoring 23 points.
“Of course the 60 points, the last game, the last stretch, he basically won the game by himself,” Neto said.
And contrary to what the public perception was, Neto insisted that there were no free passes when it came to defending Bryant.
“We were trying to win,” he said. “A lot people said we let them score or whatever. We were trying to win. We are competitors. It was amazing, and what I will take from that game is his passion for the game.”
Neto that night had eight points, four assists and no turnovers in 18 minutes and 59 seconds.
Bryant made 22 of 50 shots, including 6 of 21 from three-point range. Bryant also hit 10 of 12 foul shots.
The pregame ceremony hit many people hard, including Sixers coach Brett Brown.
Monday, Brown talked about meeting with Bryant for 45 minutes before his final game in Philadelphia on Dec. 1, 2015. The admiration that Brown had for Bryant altered the way he entered Tuesday’s game.
“I really chose not to coach at the start,” Brown said in his postgame news conference. “You felt like you are cheapening the night. You obviously are trying to get us organized, but to come out and handle a game like you normally would handle a game, I would not be telling the truth if I said that is how we started.”
How long was it before he began coaching?
“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” he said. “It was not at all a normal game for me and, I am sure, everyone else I am looking at.”
Tomorrow: Sixers at Atlanta Hawks, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia
Saturday: Sixers at Boston Celtics, 8:30 p.m., ABC
Monday: Sixers at Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus, NBA TV.
Feb. 6: Sixers at Milwaukee Bucks, 8 p.m., TNT
Feb. 7: Memphis at Sixers, 7 p.m. NBC Sports Philadelphia
Question: How come the Sixers have such a hard time getting dunks in a half court set no matter if the other team has shot blockers or not? — @sportz4natic