TNT's tribute to Kobe Bryant.

In the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death Sunday, there have been plenty of tributes to him from the basketball world, the entertainment world and beyond. Tuesday saw a particularly notable one on the basketball TV side, though; Turner postponed the launch of their new NBA on TNT Tuesday Night franchise by a week to instead air an hour-long pregame show ahead of their Celtics-Heat broadcast. Normally, pregame content would come from the studio or from the arena in question and focus on the game, but this week’s came from the Staples Center, the arena Bryant had produced so many highlights in, and it focused solely on paying tribute to Bryant. And it saw the Inside The NBA cast of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal joined by many others, including Turner analysts Reggie Miller and Dwyane Wade and long-time Lakers GM/current Clippers’ exec Jerry West delivering some notable remarks about what Bryant meant to them. First, here’s Johnson’s introduction to the segment:

Here’s West talking about drafting Bryant in 1996 and working to bring in O’Neal after that (with the selling pitch of “We just drafted one of the best players in the world”), the time he spent with Bryant when Bryant was still a teenager, and how this has affected him and the city of Los Angeles:

“He always talked about this Mamba mentality. He didn’t have to create that, it was already there. To watch him search out information, to watch him want to find some way to get better every year…I think the thing that resonates with me the most right now out of his incredible career, this is a sad city. One person with one name, Kobe, you wouldn’t have to mention his last name. To see the pictures of him with his daughters, sitting at games hugging them, to get a Christmas card from them every year, to watch this incredible family grow and prosper, and now to see not one, not two, but three families gone, saddest day of my life.”

O’Neal also spoke emotionally about what Bryant meant to him, and how this has contributed to what he’s already been going through after the loss of his sister (to cancer in October at age 40), and how he’s going to miss Bryant:

“I lost two grandmothers, lost a sarge, lost my sister, and now I lost my little brother. Our names will be attached together for what we did. People always ask about our relationship, and I just say ‘It’s just like me and Charles.’ You’ve got two strong-minded people that are going to get it done their way, going to say certain things, but the respect will never be lost. …It just makes me think that in life, sometimes instead of holding back certain things, we should just do. …We up here, we work a lot, and I think a lot of times, we take stuff for granted. I don’t talk to you guys as much as I need to. And the fact that we’re not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony, the fact that we’re not going to be able to say ‘Hah, I got five [championship rings], you got four,’ the fact that we’re not going to be able to say ‘If we stayed together, we would have got 10,’ those are the things you can’t get back. …I just really have to take time to call and say ‘I love you.'”

Wade spoke about what he learned from Bryant entering the league:

Miller remembered Bryant’s on-court excellence, and how tough it was to stop him:

Smith talked about Bryant’s role as a father, and what he meant to his kids:

And Barkley spoke about how he viewed Bryant as like one of his own kids:

This was a remarkable hour of television, and one that showed how much Bryant touched each of these people. More videos are available on the NBA on TNT Twitter page.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.