Ian Eagle: Knicks-Nets Was 'Eerie' In Wake Of Kobe Bryant's Death

Madison Square Garden Was Subdued After Superstar's Passing

Moose & Maggie
January 27, 2020 - 1:57 pm

The sudden deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles have sent shockwaves around the NBA, and around the whole world.

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Bryant was a legendary figure who was looked up to by millions, including countless players in the league today. Some of those players played with heavy hearts on Sunday, as the NBA didn’t cancel its slate of games following the tragic news.

Ian Eagle called the Knicks-Nets game from Madison Square Garden for YES, and he told WFAN’s “Moose and Maggie” show about the “eerie” atmosphere at the Garden following Bryant’s death.

“There was a sullen feeling at the Garden. It was eerie,” said Eagle. “Pregame usually at an NBA game; guys are out shooting around, the crowd is building, you feel some of the energy starting to build. That’s under normal conditions, and this was not that. There were only two guys shooting around. There was no music being played. The crowd didn’t really know how to handle it and how to react, as they started filling in the seats. And as the teams took the floor for the normal pregame routines, it was quite odd and surreal.”

The atmosphere at a rivalry game like Knicks-Nets is usually, as Eagle says, palpable and constantly building. The home team ultimately won the contest 110-97, but that seemed like an afterthought on the day.

Similar atmospheres were evident all around the league. Players were moved to tears before, during and after their games. Teams elected to pay tribute to the future Hall of Famer by taking 24-second shot clock violations and 8-second half court violations.

The Lakers weren't in action on Sunday. Their next game will be against the Clippers at Staples Center on Tuesday.

A moment of silence is held for former Lakers great Kobe Bryant before the game between the Knicks and Nets at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 26, 2020.
Elsa/Getty Images

Nets point guard Kyrie Irving did not play in the game, as he was particularly close with Bryant.

“There were rumors that maybe the game would not even be played. Kyrie Irving got the news when he was on the court shooting around early, and at that point left the arena, he was too broken up, and did not return for the game. Him and Kobe Bryant had formed a very close relationship, to the point when Kyrie Irving won the Championship with Cleveland, he facetimed Kobe from the locker room … just to connect with Kobe.”

Irving certainly wasn’t the only player who was too distraught to play, but Eagle notes that it would have been very difficult for the NBA to cancel the day’s entire schedule of games, especially with the game between the Rockets and the Nuggets set to begin so soon after the news first broke.

“From everything I could gather, once that Houston game got underway, there really was no turning back. Look, I think for some players it was therapeutic, to go out there and do what they do. For others, the emotion was overwhelming and it’s impossible to tell somebody how they should handle it and how they should react. That’s such an individual thing. For the league, they made that call, the logistical part of it, with teams already in place ready to play, with fans already in place, television networks already in place.”

Click on the audio player above to listen to the full interview with Ian Eagle.