KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The NBA is back!

The New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz kicked off the long-awaited resumption of the NBA season with Thursday’s first of two seeding games here at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Rudy Gobert hit a pair of foul shots with 6..9 seconds left to give the Jazz a 106-104 victory at the HP Field House. The Los Angeles Lakers held off the Los Angeles Clippers, 103-101, in Thursday’s nightcap at The Arena.

The game featured a unified statement against racism and social injustice of kneeling during the national anthem along with virtual fans, and some excitement.

It was only fitting that Gobert won the first game of the 22-team restart inside the Walt Disney World bubble.

The league shut down the season following games on March 11 after he tested positive for COVID-19. His test result was shortly before his team was scheduled to play the host Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. That game was canceled, and Gobert was not in the arena.

But on Thursday, Gobert was on the court warming up around 90 minutes before the tip-off of Utah’s designated road game. He scored the first two points of the restart and the final two of the game. He finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“Life works in mysterious ways,” Gobert said. “I’m just happy, blessed to be able to be back on the court, to do what I love to do, to be back out there with my teammates and try to win a game.”

The most memorable moment occurred doing pregame, as both teams and game referees knelt during the national anthem.

For the past several weeks, NBA players talked about using their platform during the NBA restart to make a statement against racism and social injustice. And on this night, players, coaches and referees Michael Smith, James Williams, and Zach Zarba made theirs by taking a knee.

The players wore T-shirts with “Black Lives Matter” on the front while kneeling behind the words “Black Lives Matter” on the court.

“I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, “and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule of requiring standing during the national anthem.”

In a statement, the Pelicans said they stand for the ideals and freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest.

“To promote meaning changes relative to social justice and racial equality, the New Orleans Pelicans have partnered with our players, staff and coaches to create a Social Justice Leadership Alliance committed to furthering the discussion, listening and learning and taking action to positive change in our community and our country,” the statement read.

The National Basketball Referees Association announced support for members who chose to kneel during the Star-Spangled Banner.

“BLACK LIVES MATTER,” NBRA spokesperson Mark Denesuk wrote. “Social justice and bringing awareness to the inequitable treatment of black and brown people in America and very important to our diverse membership. We felt a responsibility to use our visibility as the NBA season resumes to promote awareness and inspire anti-racist action in our nation and around the world.”

George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement in recent months has called for people around the league to seek change.

Fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, was arrested on May 25 and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter four days after he pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd, who was Black, was unarmed and handcuffed and told Chauvin he couldn’t breathe.

All 16 Jazz players wore phrases on the back of their jerseys to bring awareness to social issues. All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell had “Say Her Name” on the back of his. Mitchell played college hoops in Louisville where police shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT, inside her apartment in May.

All-Star center Gobert had “Equality.”

All 17 of the Pelicans had phrases on their jerseys with former Sixers JJ Redick wearing “Say Their Names” and Zion Williamson donned “Peace.”

Williamson finished with 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 15 minutes after being a game-time decision. He was on a minutes restriction. The standout rookie power forward practiced Tuesday after being away from the team for 12 days due to a family medical emergency and his four-day quarantine.

But on this night, Brandon Ingram showed why he was an All-Star and one of the league’s most improved players with a game-high 23 points.

“It felt like just a few weeks ago,” Ingram said Thursday morning of the excitement of resuming the season. “We missed basketball so much. That’s pretty much all we do when we wake up in the morning: just think about basketball, basketball, basketball and family.”

It was only fitting that Gobert won the first game of the 22-team restart inside the Walt Disney World bubble.

The league shut down the season following games on March 11 after he tested positive for COVID-19. His test result was shortly before his team was scheduled to play the host Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. That game was canceled, and Gobert was not in the arena.

But on Thursday, Gobert was on the court warming up around 90 minutes before the tip-off of Utah’s designated road game. He scored the first two points of the restart and the final two of the game. He finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.