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Kyrie Irving speaks out for first time on Kobe Bryant after the Brooklyn Nets beat the Detroit Pistons


Kyrie Irving addressed Kobe Bryant’s death after his return for the Brooklyn Nets (NBA ESPN)

Kyrie Irving paid an emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant after making his return for the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday evening.

Irving was ‘tremendously affected’ by Bryant’s death, according to Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, and the 27-year-old pulled out of the Nets’ game against the New York Knicks on Sunday after learning about the helicopter crash which killed nine people including Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

The Nets star was a close friend of Bryant and considered the LA Lakers legend to be a mentor for a significant part of his career.

After missing the game against the Knicks, Irving returned on Wdnesday as beat the Detroit Pistons 125-115.

During the anthem before the game, Irving was in tears while the Nets left two courtside seats – the same ones Kobe and Gianna had sat in just weeks ago – free with a bouquet of purple and yellow flowers on each one as a tribute.

‘I’m trying to keep my emotions together,’ Irving told ESPN after the game.

‘You’ve got to understand it’s just… his family, his friends, you know, it’s just hard to even just conjure up the words.

‘You try to find a clear-cut message you would send to Gigi and Kobe and everybody who lost their lives in such a tragedy like that. It’s hard.

‘I’ve been trying to do this the last few days, trying to get ready for a moment like this, but I’ve got to just let it be, let it flow.

‘I know he’s there watching as well as Gigi, as well as the young ball players who were on the plane as well.

Kyrie Irving returned as the Nets beat the Detroit Pistons at the Barclays Center (Getty Images)

‘I was just with them at the Mamba academy working out with them in the summer, you seen them girls losing their lives.

‘It’s heartbreaking for all of us but I’m not the only one dealing with something.

‘I think the most beautiful thing is that it’s connecting all of us. And his seeds that he’s planted in all of us will continue to grow and his legacy will go on to live forever.

‘The man was a philosopher, a teacher, he left so many great things here for us to follow and I’m just going to continue to carry the torch.’





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