SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz and their fans paid tribute to one of the game’s all-time great talents Monday night.
Before Monday’s game against the Houston Rockets, fans created a memorial to Kobe Bryant outside Vivint. Smart Home Arena. Many fans left balloons, flowers and memorabilia to pay their respects to a player they loved to hate.
“Everyone in Utah, I feel like always had a grudge and disliked Kobe because he always beat the Jazz,” said Porter Reve, a fan from Bountiful.
While Bryant may have been a thorn in the side of the Utah Jazz for many years, fans eventually grew to respect what he brought to the game.
“His work ethic was an inspiration to me and millions of people around the world,” Reve said.
Other fans were overcome by emotion.
“I was crying,” said Joziah Stallings, a 12-year-old fan from Eagle Mountain. “When I was three, I was watching Kobe. I was watching him dunk. He was a legend.”
Before the game, the team held a moment of silence. That was followed by the Jazz taking a symbolic shot clock violation — 24 seconds to honor the player who wore #24.
A chant of “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe,” echoed in the arena.
For many the experience was surreal, and a painful reminder of the reality of the tragedy.
“I still don’t want to believe it. I feel like I am dreaming,” said Kellin Sampson, a Jazz and Lakers fan from Roy.