Trae Young never shared an NBA floor with Kobe Bryant, but the two still built a relationship early in Young’s career. The two met in large part because Young was Bryant’s daughter Gianna’s favorite player. Kobe attended three NBA games during the 2019-20 season, and two of them were Young’s.
That made Bryant’s death in January of 2020 that much more emotional for Young. Kobe was close with several NBA players, but Young also had to grieve the loss of Gianna. On the day of their helicopter accident, Young came out wearing a No. 8 jersey—Bryant’s former number—rather than his typical No. 11. Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of Bryant’s death, and Young again found a way to honor the Laker legend.
Young’s Hawks led the Clippers by eight with around two minutes left in the game when he lined up from near the Atlanta logo. Swish. Atlanta’s lead swelled to 11 on a shot that turned out to be the clincher, and Young flashed the numbers two and four, “24,” Bryant’s other uniform number.
That the moment came against the Clippers, Bryant’s crosstown rival and the team he almost signed with in 2004, makes it that much more satisfying. Tributes ranging from teammates like Pau Gasol to friends like Kyrie Irving have been common in recent days, but Young’s devotion to Bryant’s legacy is especially inspiring. They may have never played against one another, but Kobe still managed to impact his career and life enough to draw such a tribute.