NEW YORK — The NBA, in coordination with the National Basketball Players Association and Nike, will continue paying tribute to Kobe Bryant at the All-Star Game in Chicago on Feb. 16.
The Lakers legend, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash last weekend in Calabasas, California. In remembrance of the Bryants, Team LeBron, led by LeBron James, will wear No. 2 jerseys honoring Gianna, while Team Giannis, led by the Giannis Antetokounmpo, will wear Bryant’s No. 24.
“I think it’s great,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said Friday. “I think we’re all still hurting with the death of Kobe Bryant. I think it’s a great sign of respect. I think the league’s done a great job with it. It’s a hard situation.”
Besides the jersey numbers, both teams will wear patches with nine stars to represent the nine crash victims.
Additionally, players taking part in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night of All-Star weekend will wear jersey patches featuring the numbers 2 and 24 surrounded by nine stars. That patch will also be worn during the Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point Shootout on Saturday.
The NBA is expected to announce other tributes as the weekend gets closer.
In and out
Boylen was proud that second-year big man Wendell Carter Jr. was selected by the NBA’s assistant coaches to play in the Rising Stars Challenge. Unfortunately, Carter will miss it because of the ankle injury that has sidelined him for weeks.
“Wendell is respected by the coaches,” Boylen said. “They see what we know and we feel is his toughness, physicality, ability to play the game at both ends. His motor. They see the defensive numbers when he’s in the game and when he’s not.”
The Bulls were hoping rookie guard Coby White might sneak into the Rising Stars Game, but it was not to be.
One and Dunn
Losing starting guard Kris Dunn on the opening possession in Brooklyn on Friday night was a problem for the Bulls, who were torched by Nets guard Kyrie Irving for 27 first-half points. Dunn limped to the locker room, favoring his right knee, after a hard spill on the court.
Boylen says Dunn’s defense has been game-changing.
“I’ll be shocked if he’s not on one of these [all-defensive] teams,” Boylen said. “He’s an all-defensive defender if I’ve ever seen one, and I’ve seen a few of them. . . . Paul George, Kawhi Leonard.’’