Kobe, Kobe, Kobe;’ All-Star Game crowd pays tribute to fallen star

first_imgBy Brendan O’BrienCHICAGO (Reuters) – Team LeBron beat Team Giannis by two points at the 69th NBA All-Star game on Sunday at a packed United Center that fell silent for eight seconds before tip-off as about 21,000 fans joined hands to pay their respects to global sports icon Kobe Bryant.The silence was broken by a string of thunderous “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe,” chants that rocked the stadium as the crowd honored Bryant, who wore the No. 8 and No. 24 during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers that was highlighted by five National Basketball Association championships.The stirring pre-game tribute began with Laker great Magic Johnson rousing the crowd and paying homage to Bryant, killed along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven victims in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Jan. 26.“We will never see another basketball player quite like Kobe,” Johnson said, highlighting his work with the Los Angeles community along with the love he had for his family. “This is a tough time for the whole NBA family.”Johnson also paid tribute to former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who oversaw explosive growth in the popularity of the game during his 30-year tenure. Stern died on Jan. 1. Before tip-off, the singer and actor Jennifer Hudson, who is a Chicago native, sang with a montage of photos of Bryant and his daughter in the background.The game was a culmination of a weekend filled with tributes to the former Los Angeles Lakers star who was an 18-time All-Star and won the All-Star game’s MVP award four times.On Friday, Bryant, who is fourth all-time in league scoring, was named a finalist to the Basketball Hall of Fame. On Saturday, the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, announced that the league’s All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award has been permanently named for Bryant.Bryant made his NBA All-Star Game debut in 1998 at age 19 – the youngest player to ever play in an All-Star Game. His 18 All-Star selections are the second-most in NBA history, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at 19. Players in Sunday’s All-Star game wore No. 2 and No. 24 on their jerseys to honor Kobe and Gianna Bryant, while the game’s format paid homage to Bryant.The team with the most points after three quarters needed to score 24 points to win, while the trailing team had to score 24 plus the number of points it was down.Team Giannis held a nine-point lead over Team LeBron after three quarters, but the LeBron James-led side had the last laugh, outscoring Team Giannis 33-22 in the final period to clinch a 157-155 victory.Team Giannis was headed by Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Team LeBron’s Kawhi Leonard was named All-Star MVP after scoring 30 points, including eight three-pointers.“Words can’t explain how happy I am for it,” Leonard said of winning the MVP trophy, now named after Bryant.“Able to put that trophy in my room, in my trophy room, and just be able to see Kobe’s name on there, it just means a lot to me. He’s a big inspiration in my life. He did a lot for me.”last_img read more

Read more on Kobe, Kobe, Kobe;’ All-Star Game crowd pays tribute to fallen star

For Olson, snap was much more than a play

first_imgDaniel Zhu | Daily TrojanWith under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, there wasn’t much left to see for the fans at the Coliseum who sweated through the entirety of USC’s win over Western Michigan on Saturday.Junior safety Marvell Tell III had just scored USC’s seventh touchdown of the game on a pick-six to put the Trojans ahead of Western Michigan 48-31, and fans started heading for the exits.But before freshman placekicker Chase McGrath kicked the final extra point, head coach Clay Helton curiously called a timeout. Then, he yelled at redshirt sophomore long snapper Jake Olson.“Are you ready?” Helton asked. “Let’s get this done.”Fans who wanted to beat the traffic stayed in their seats. Media members who just wanted the game to end perked both ears up. The announcers on the Pac-12 Network started giving background on Olson. His name was introduced over the public-address system to the roar of the crowd. Slowly, the realization of what was about to happen drifted through the Coliseum: A blind man was about to participate in a real, live college football game.Olson took a few practice snaps with redshirt junior placeholder Wyatt Schmidt, and then he was out there. On the field. In a game. Next thing he knew, he was lined up, the whistle had blown and it was “go time.” He didn’t even have time to be nervous.“Wyatt told me to put my hands on the ball and called the cadence right away,” Olson said. “There wasn’t much time to think about anything.”Of course, the snap was perfect. Of course, the kick was good. And in the ensuing hours and days, Olson’s moment of a lifetime has gone viral, making the rounds on social media and earning him airtime on ESPN and an interview with The New York Times.“What a pressure player,” Helton said. “Was that not a perfect snap? I’m very proud of him. He’s put a ton of work in.”To fully understand the gravity of that snap, you need to know what Olson went through to get to that moment. How he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma — a cancer of the retina — at birth, causing him to lose his left eye at 10 months. How the cancer came back eight separate times despite rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and other treatment. How, at age 12, his right eye was removed to prevent the cancer from spreading to the brain, rendering him completely blind.But the die-hard USC fan from Huntington Beach was determined to not just live while blind, but also accomplish his dream: wear the Cardinal and Gold on Saturdays. So he learned how to long-snap, perfecting the position over a summer in high school.“When I first started I couldn’t snap the ball,” Olson told the Daily Trojan in 2015. “I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. It took two or three months of really practicing hard to start seeing some progress.”Remarkably, he progressed enough to earn the starting long snapper position at Orange Lutheran, a football powerhouse in Orange County. And soon, he not only found himself at USC through a scholarship with Swim With Mike, an organization that helps physically challenged athletes attend college, but he also made the football team.He redshirted his first season, spending time on the practice field working on his snaps. And in one practice in fall of 2015, then-head coach Steve Sarkisian told Olson to jump in and snap the ball in a live field goal drill for the first time.“I felt ready,” Olson said. “It was something I did thousands of times. It was not letting the situation get in your head … Just do the same thing you always do.”Perhaps as a precursor to his first snap in a live game, that attempt was also perfect — as if there was ever any doubt. On Saturday, his family was in attendance, and they were probably more nervous than he was.“I didn’t want them to put him in when the game was so close because I didn’t want that pressure for him, even though I’m sure he would’ve done fine,” said Jake’s mother, Cindy, standing outside the USC locker room following the game.She was quick to add that she was speaking for herself and not her son, who does not lack any confidence. A few weeks ago, Olson was with his family in Atlanta across from the College Football Hall of Fame and the city where the National Championship Game will be played next January, for a speaking engagement, and officials offered to give him a tour. But Olson declined.“I’m coming back in January with my team,” Olson said, according to his mother. “That’s when we’re going to do it.”But Olson also has a sense of humility and appreciation for the opportunities he’s received. It took a concerted effort to set up Saturday’s moment, with Helton reaching out to Western Michigan head coach Tim Lester before the game, offering to not rush the Broncos’ first extra point attempt if Lester would tell his players to back off during Olson’s snap. Lester agreed.“I told my guys, ‘This opportunity for Jake is bigger than the game, you know?’” Lester told USA TODAY.Indeed, the moment was bigger than sports. On the scoreboard, it was merely a point — but for Olson, it was a dream come true. On Saturday, he showed that blindness can’t stop him from doing what he loves. From celebrating with his teammates on the field to being interviewed in the press conference room, Olson was treated to the full college football experience — not just as a 12-year-old when he spent a day with former head coach Pete Carroll and the football team before his surgery, but as an actual player on the official USC roster.  “This has come full circle because he got up there being on the team and actually contributing to his team,” Cindy Olson said.We probably haven’t seen the last of Olson yet, as Helton said he would try to work him into more games. Regardless, Olson has already done without eyesight what most of others haven’t done with vision.And on Saturday, instead of reporters peppering redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold with questions in the postgame press conference room, it was Olson who answered question after question — on getting the opportunity to play, on the emotions of walking on the field, on what surprised him and on his life coming full-circle. One-by-one, he gave thought-out, elaborate answers, but it was his last answer — the one in response to coming full-circle — that drew nods from Helton and junior running back Ronald Jones II and sucked the air out of the packed room.  “I just think there’s a beauty in it,” he said. “If you can’t see how God works things out, then I think you’re the blind one.”last_img read more

Read more on For Olson, snap was much more than a play