When the Nets won the opening tip in Sunday's game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Jarrett Allen's jump-ball tap went into the hands of Spencer Dinwiddie, who crossed the half-court line and took the 24-second shot-clock violation on the opening possession.
The move, which the Knicks did as well on the ensuing possession with Elfrid Payton, was planned as a tribute to Kobe Bryant. The NBA legend, who spent all 20 seasons with the Lakers, died earlier in California on Sunday when a Calabasas helicopter crash killed the 41-year-old Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna among nine people reportedly on the way to his Mamba Sports Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks.
"That's all about him," Dinwiddie said of the Knicks' and Nets' honoring Bryant, whose first name was chanted by the crowd on hand at MSG after the plays and throughout the evening. "That shows what he meant to people. He didn't play for the Knicks and Madison Square Garden was on their feet. The loudest they were all night was for him."
Bryant -- an 18-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion, among a laundry list of career accomplishments on the court -- inspired a generation. That included Dinwiddie.
Born in Los Angeles and a high school product of Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft Charter, Dinwiddie idolized Bryant, who starred for the hometown Lakers from 1996-16. In the locker room at MSG after the Nets' 110-97 loss to the Knicks, Dinwiddie's voice started to shake and a tear rolled down his left cheek when he reflected on a recent moment with Bryant.
Following the Nets' 122-112 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 21, Bryant congratulated Dinwiddie after he dropped his season-high 39 points. Dinwiddie cherished the moment, calling the exchange the "proudest moment" of his career in an Instagram post he published prior to Sunday's game against the Knicks.
Spencer Dinwiddie cries while talking about what Kobe Bryant meant to him pic.twitter.com/XRgpjD3bnA- SNY (@SNYtv) January 27, 2020
"For him to tell me, in his book, I'm an All-Star and stuff like that -- I've talked about a popularity contest before -- you don't win things like that when you're me," Dinwiddie said as his voice choked up. "So for him to say that, I didn't need to be selected anymore because I was an All-Star. It's not just my family -- it was the guy."
NBA players across the league were shaken up by Bryant's death. Kyrie Irving, Dinwiddie's teammate, was close to Bryant and did not play in Sunday's game against the Knicks for personal reasons.
"He was everything to my generation," Dinwiddie said. "There's a whole generation of kids that ... that was our childhood. The lessons of hard work and, as cliche as it may sound, the mamba mentality -- that's part of the reason why I am who I am today. The mentality of consistent work and pushing through boundaries and playing through injury and never giving up, never falling, just continuing to push through, shooting the free throws off the Achilles, all types of things that he did, the game-winners, all that stuff. He was everything to a lot of kids and I was one of them."