Forgive me, but basketball isn’t exactly on my mind at this moment. Nor was it yesterday after realizing what I initially thought to be a bad prank was actually true. The basketball community and world lost an icon with the passing of Kobe Bryant, the former Lower Merion High School and Los Angeles Lakers great.

I’m assuming most, if not all, of you know that the future Hall of Famer was among the nine people killed Sunday in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles. Bryant, 41, was traveling to a youth basketball function with his daughter, Gianna, 13, when the copter crashed.

Prayers up for the families of all the victims of this tragedy.

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— Keith Pompey (offthedribble@inquirer.com)

Embiid wanted to be like Kobe

There’s no denying the love/hate relationship that Sixers fans had with Bryant. But they should all adore one of the greatest to ever play the game. As we found out yesterday, Bryant is the main reason Sixers fans have Joel Embiid, arguably the league’s best center.

On Thursday, Embiid became the franchise’s first player to be voted to start in three consecutive NBA All-Star Games since Allen Iverson did it seven straight times from 2000 to 2006. The 7-foot-2 center is the eighth player in franchise history to be named an All-Star starter three times.

His journey began with wanting to be like Bryant. The Cameroonian revealed that on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

“Man, I don’t even know where to start,” he tweeted. “I started playing ball, because of KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched ball before that and that finals was the turning point of my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I’m so FREAKING SAD right now!!!!”

Embiid wasn’t alone.

It seemed the entire basketball community was saddened by news of Bryant’s death. But there’s no denying that Embiid is proof that the Sixers and their fans benefited from Bryant’s global imprint on the game.

Starting five

Paschall standing out in Golden State

Eric Paschall will have a homecoming of sorts when the Sixers host the Golden State Warriors tomorrow night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Warriors forward was the 41st overall pick in June’s NBA draft out of Villanova.

The 6-foot-6, 255-pounder is one of the league’s top rookies despite being a second-round pick. The New York native is tied for fourth among rookies in scoring (13.9 points per game), sixth in rebounding (4.8), fourth in field-goal percentage (.493), and ninth in free-throw percentage (.780) and minutes played (27.3).

He’s started in 22 of the Warriors’ 47 games this season.

Paschall and Golden State will take a three-game losing streak to Philly.

Eric Paschall has played well as a rookie for the Warriors.
Craig Mitchelldyer / AP
Eric Paschall has played well as a rookie for the Warriors.

Important dates: Next Five Flow

Tomorrow: Golden State Warriors at Sixers, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Thursday: Sixers at Atlanta Hawks, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Saturday: Sixers at Boston Celtics, 8:30 p.m., ABC

Next Monday: Sixers at Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Philadelphia

Feb. 6: Sixers at Milwaukee Bucks, 8 p.m., TNT

Passing the rock

Question: Should MT [Matisse Thybulle] be a permanent starter even once JE [Joel Embiid] returns? Thanks in advance — @paulscrutton on Twitter

Answer: Good morning, Paul. Thanks for the question, and you are welcome. That’s a great question. Based on Embiid’s comments on Friday, I’m expecting him to return sooner than the sidelined Josh Richardson, assuming Embiid does return next week. In that scenario, yes, I would keep Thybulle in the starting lineup.

However, I would go back to bringing him off the bench once Richardson returns. Yes, I know the Sixers are 8-1 with Thybulle in the starting lineup. However, he is also their best defender and brings a lot of energy as the sixth man. I also wouldn’t want to disrupt the team chemistry by benching Richardson, who has been solid. But I would continue to give Thybulle a lot of minutes and close out games with him when he’s playing well.

Sixers rookie Matisse Thybulle defending LeBron James on Saturday. Thybulle finished the game with five steals and one block.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Sixers rookie Matisse Thybulle defending LeBron James on Saturday. Thybulle finished the game with five steals and one block.