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Embiid, who returned from a hand injury, wore No. 24 for Tuesday’s game against the Golden State Warriors. Michael Lee of The Athletic shared the news and noted there were no pregame introductions. In Bryant’s honor, the 76ers took an eight-second backcourt violation and the Warriors took a 24-second shot clock violation to start the contest.
The Los Angeles Lakers legend and his daughter Gianna were among the nine people who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday.
The No. 24 is retired by the 76ers, so Embiid called Bobby Jones to ask for permission to wear it, per John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
The 76ers shared Jones’ response on Instagram:
“I got a call today from Joel. He explained to me how growing up in Africa, Kobe was a guy who he looked up to as the star of American basketball at that time, and he is the player who made Joel want to play basketball. I shared with Joel that Kobe, in addition to doing all that scoring, was a 12-time All-Defensive player. I only made it 11 times, so there’s a lot of defense that goes into that no. 24. I told Joel to play hard defense, because that is what the no. 24 represents in my mind. I thanked him for the call, and I’m glad he and I had the chance to talk.”
Embiid reacted to Bryant’s death on Twitter, saying he started playing basketball only after watching No. 24’s Lakers defeat the Boston Celtics in seven games in the 2010 NBA Finals.
He called that series “the turning point of my life”:
“The first player I fell in love with was Kobe,” Embiid told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck in January 2019. “… I just liked the way he moves. I can see myself in him. I loved the way he plays the game, athletic and dunk, will post you up, will put it on the floor, [make] tough shots and everything like that. That’s what was appealing to me.”
While Bryant played in the backcourt and Embiid is a big man, the 76ers center is known for his versatility and ability to score in a number of ways.
He modeled his game after the all-time great and honored his basketball idol Tuesday.