The death of former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant shocked the world as NBA games were about to start Sunday afternoon.
Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kevin Huerter, a Shenendehowa graduate and former University of Maryland standout, was notified at the Hawks' State Farm Arena prior to Sunday's game against the Washington Wizards, a 152-133 Atlanta win that included two on-court tributes to Bryant.
"For even someone like me who didn't really know him, just being there in the locker room and around the game and around the NBA, I didn't feel like playing," Huerter said Monday during a conference call with Capital Region reporters. "I think that was the general thing around the league, is coaches didn't really want to coach, players really didn't want to play. . . . It hit you that hard."
Huerter grew up idolizing Dwyane Wade, but his teammate Trae Young had a close connection with the Lakers legend.
"He was a mentor for Trae," Huerter said. "I know that they worked out once last summer, but they had kept in contact on the phone.
"They spoke the day before, and Kobe congratulated him on being an all-star. I know that hit Trae hard."
Young started the Atlanta Hawks' on-court salute to Bryant, switching from his usual No. 11 jersey to No. 8, one of the two numbers Bryant wore during his 20-year career.
After the Hawks won the opening tip-off, Young kept the ball in the backcourt for an 8-second violation. The Wizards followed suit with another tribute to Bryant, holding the ball for a 24-second shot-clock violation in honor of Bryant's years wearing No. 24.
Huerter currently has a signed Bryant jersey framed in his Atlanta home.
"That was never a jersey that, when I got it, would think how much it would mean today, but obviously it's crazy and something that obviously I'll hold on to," he said.
Huerter said he most admired the NBA star's on-court demeanor.
"He had no friends on the court," Huerter said. "He could be best friends with you off the court, but on the court, he wasn't your friend, and you knew it. He was just so competitive and so fierce.
"His attention to detail, watching film, just knowing the game and wanting to perfect the game — as a basketball player, you appreciate that.
“That was the thing that you'll remember most about him, more than all the crazy shots he hit and the championships he won."