Leafs’ Matthews, Marner jump at chance to play shinny with Bieber - Sportsnet.ca - Canada News Media
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Leafs’ Matthews, Marner jump at chance to play shinny with Bieber – Sportsnet.ca



TORONTO — When Justin Bieber came calling with a favour, three Toronto Maple Leafs‘ stars were more than happy to answer.

That’s how Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Tyson Barrie found themselves taking part in a Boxing Day skate at 95-year-old William Allman Memorial Arena in Stratford, Ont., on Thursday afternoon. Bieber was back in his hometown for the holidays and invited the Leafs to join his childhood buddies for a shinny game at the home of the Jr. B Stratford Warriors.

“We had nothing else going on and that’s something you don’t want to miss,” Marner said Friday. “Obviously, we jumped at the excitement of that and we had all three of us go down.

“It was a lot of fun and it was cool meeting all of his friends as well.”

Naturally, their presence created a small stir in the community of 30,000 people about two hours west of Toronto. The Leafs obliged requests for selfies before and after taking the ice with the pop star and his buddies.

Bieber is a big Leafs fan and sat directly behind the home bench wearing a Matthews sweater for the Oct. 25 game at Scotiabank Arena. Matthews, meanwhile, loves fashion
and routinely wears items from Bieber’s Drew House clothing line.

They’ve struck up a friendship in recent months and that’s where the planning started to happen for Thursday’s shinny session.

“It was great. It was a lot of fun,” said Matthews. “I’ve never been in that part of Ontario, so it was kind of cool to see where he grew up and meet a lot of buddies that he grew up with and everything.

“It was definitely a pretty fun experience for all of us.”

The players were split into two teams and they played 4-on-4 — Bieber had both Matthews and Marner on his side, while Barrie was on the other — which gave the Leafs players a chance to stretch their legs during the three-day holiday break.

Bieber’s team won, but the game wasn’t overly competitive.

“Those guys, I think Christmas holidays, they were all just coming from work, drinking beers and having fun,” said Barrie.

As for Bieber himself, the entertainer drew positive reviews. He skates often and participated in the celebrity game during the 2017 NHL all-star weekend in Los Angeles — memorably taking a hit from Chris Pronger.

“He’s actually better than I thought he was,” said Marner. “I saw videos of when he skated here (at Scotiabank Arena) the first time and you don’t really see too much, but he’s got really good hands and he’s got a pretty good shot on him.

“I think he surprised me and Matts quite a bit, and Tyson.”

The Leafs certainly seemed to enjoy their visit to Stratford. Barrie had never met Bieber before and came away impressed.

“He was a really nice guy and it’s a cool thing what he does for all of his buddies there,” said Barrie. “It was a cool day.”

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No NBA player brought the buzz to Toronto like the late Kobe Bryant – Toronto Sun



No visiting player — not Michael Jordan, not Allen Iverson, not even Stephen Curry — brought the buzz to a Toronto Raptors game that Kobe Bryant did during his 20-year NBA career. When Kobe’s Lakers were in town — only 16 times in all, since he played in the other conference — the stands were always dotted with hundreds of Kobe jerseys and his every move was often cheered.

Bryant died in tragic circumstances in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, herself a budding basketball star, and reportedly seven others. They were reportedly on the way to a nearby hoops practice. Bryant had famously travelled by helicopter to games and practices at Staples Center while a player for years in order to get around the notorious Los Angeles traffic.

It’s a where were you moment. Like when Princess Diana perished in 1997, or at least for Canadian sports fans, when Roy Halladay’s plane went down in 2017.

Bryant idolized and patterned himself in both game and mannerisms after Michael Jordan and then became that same type of Jordan figure to a whole new generation of players who revered him, along with countless fans.

“He was like a little brother to me,” Jordan said in a statement on Sunday.

“The sad part about today is he was the one everyone looked up to especially this generation of players,” added Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce.

“To see the way he was coming out of retirement in playing to being just a leader of people, WNBA, AAU programs, children’s books. We lost a leader.”

Bryant had spoken about youngsters looking up to him just a few years ago while in Toronto. “Been in NBA for half my life. When I first started playing the other all-stars were my kids’ age,” Bryant had said.

“Feels good to speak to them and share my knowledge and carry on the tradition of the NBA.”

The tradition of the NBA will always include a large helping of Kobe Bryant highlights. Bryant played all 20 of his seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and retired in 2016 as the NBA’s third-leading scorer and a five-time champion, winning a pair of NBA Finals MVP awards. He was an 18-time all-star and made the All-NBA first team 11 times and was one of the world’s most recognizable faces over the past two decades.

In a weird coincidence, new Lakers star LeBron James passed Bryant in scoring on Saturday night in Bryant’s native Philadelphia and went on a lengthy post-game monologue tracing his long relationship with Bryant and praising his legacy. Hours later, Bryant was gone.

Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and his other three daughters. TMZ reported a fire broke out on board and there were reports of the engine sputtering before the crash.

The son of former NBA player Joe (Jellybean) Bryant, Kobe, also known as The Black Mamba and Bean, entered the league straight from Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia and also grew up in Italy, after his father had left to play in Europe, but moved back to the U.S. in 1991. He orchestrated a trade to the Lakers, his favourite team as a child, at the 1996 draft, after Charlotte selected him 13th overall. Bryant would team with marquee free agent signing Shaquille O’Neal and turn the Lakers into a powerhouse and by the turn of the Millennium, one of the most imposing dynasties in NBA history. The Lakers won three straight titles, and then two more after Shaq left and Bryant became the team’s undisputed top player (in 2009 and 2010).

Bryant had some history with Toronto. He averaged 26.6 points — only six have averaged more — in those 16 visits, starting with an inauspicious 10 in 17 minutes as an 18-year-old playing just his fourth career game back in 1996. There was a 46-point clinic in 2008, a 40-piece in 2000 and a 27-point, 16 rebound, nine assist gem in 2010, amongst others.

Bryant also made his 18th, and final, all-star appearance at Toronto in 2016, where he shone brightest even amongst all of the NBA’s superstars. Once again, Bryant was feted like a returning king. In a bittersweet moment, Gianna rebounded for her father before the game and sat with her sisters and mother during the proceedings.

“They were sitting right behind the bench, so I was talking to them virtually the whole game,” Bryant said at the time. “They’ve enjoyed this as much as I have, coming to these arenas.”

Another of Bryant’s biggest moments also had a Toronto connection. Who could forget the day in 2006 when Bryant put a hurting on the Raptors. On that winter day, with the Lakers down big, he got as hot as just about any player ever has, finishing with 81 points in a victory. Only Wilt Chamberlain has ever scored more in a game. The historic performance was later immortalized in classic fashion in a commercial that had Bryant running into ex- Raptor Jalen Rose, who spent some time guarding him, unsuccessfully, that day. Bryant orders a martini and when asked how many olives he wanted in the drink, he deadpans: “81,” stunning Rose.

Bryant shot better against the Raptors (.471 from the field) than against any other club and the 27.2 points he managed against the team where his third-highest marks.

As a player, Bryant was immensely successful, but was also polarizing because of his one-man army style of offensive ruthlessness and his lack of efficiency.

Former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey told a funny Bryant story speaking to his competitiveness and confidence after Bryant’s final game in Toronto.

In his first all-star appearance, a still teenaged Bryant waved the league’s MVP out of the post so that he could run an isolation play.

“Karl Malone yelled over to (West head coach George Karl), ‘George, get me out of here,’ some choice words. ‘I can’t play with these young guys.’ That’s how much (swagger) Kobe had at the time,” Casey, a part of Karl’s coaching staff, recalled.

“At the time. It was just the fact that he had so much confidence that even with all of these old players around, he cleared them out so he could go ISO on somebody. It wasn’t too long, after those first few years, that he gained confidence and could back it up.”

His legion of supporters would not hear of any criticism of his game though. His relationship with O’Neal was an up-and-down one at times, but Shaq mourned the loss of his “brother” and “niece” on Sunday.

Off the court, Bryant’s legacy will always be marred somewhat by whatever happened in Colorado back in 2003. He was charged with sexual assault, but the charges were eventually dropped and a civil suit was settled out of court.

Bryant would later become one of the strongest advocates for women’s sports, especially the WNBA, a supporter of many charities, a filmmaker and an author.

A complicated, unforgettable figure.

And one gone far too soon.



Everyone had something to say about Kobe Bryant over the years, including the man himself. Here are some quotes from recent years that stood out from games we covered:

Bryant in 2016 at Toronto on why he was so fundamentally sound:

“I grew up around so much structure (in Italy). I didn’t start playing pick-up basketball until I came back to the States when I was 14 years old. Everything was very structured, very fundamental. Moving without the ball, setting screens the right way. All the basics.”

On how he wanted to be remembered:

“As a person who worked extremely hard every single day, who left it all out there. That’s the most important thing. It has nothing to do with talent, it has nothing to do with the championships. It has everything to do with working hard every single day, leaving no stone unturned. If you can look yourself in the mirror and say that you’ve done that. You should be happy and be proud of yourself.”

Bryant on where his 81-point game against the Raptors ranked:

“It’s right up there. I think the moment of the game was more special, not just from a basketball standpoint but from a family standpoint. It was my grandfather’s birthday who had passed away recently. My grandmother, who doesn’t like coming to the games because it makes her so nervous, flew out to LA and watched me play. So from a personal standpoint, that game has a tremendous amount of value, aside from what took place on the court.”

Bryant on what was next for him after he retired and how to fill the void of not playing basketball:

“With my passion. That’s the hard part about it. It took me about 15 years to figure out what the next step is. But I’m very excited about it and I’m extremely passionate about it and focussed on it. That is the hard challenge for athletes, to figure out what comes next, because basketball or sports or whatever it is, comes so easy, right. You’re born and this is what you do from a young age and it’s hard to figure out what the next thing is. But I’ll be fine.”

Bryant on his style not appealing to everyone:

“I think it’s that I play with a chip on my shoulder, man. I didn’t care who was out there in front of me. My job was to make your night absolutely miserable. And that was my mindset. I came out to destroy you. With me it was going to be a very long night, physically, emotionally. I think fans could sense that, competitors could sense that and it’s notA a very likeable characteristic to have. But I found comfort it in it. I think that’s why. It’s not so much that people didn’t like it, it’s that I liked the fact that I didn’t like it.”

Ex-Raptor Terrence Ross on playing Bryant for the first time:

“It was my rookie year. We played him in L.A. I didn’t play that game but it was kind of like a front seat to the Lakers show. He killed us, he killed us bad. He hit a couple threes in clutch moments, he dunked to take it into overtime so I was like, “This is like vintage Kobe. And I remember my mom was sittingA courtside and she was looking me the whole time, like, ‘This is bad for ‘y’all’. But it was fun, IA enjoyed it.”

Ex-Raptors coach Dwane Casey on where Bryant ranked in terms of hardest players to design a defence against:

“He’s one of the tops. Just because he could score. Not only that, but you had to worry about him defensively. He was a roamer defensively. He was a one-man zone. He knew exactly what you were going to do, how he was going to impact the play. Defensively, he could do so much: he could do so much. He could play outside. He could play inside. Pick-and-roll. At the end of the game, they always go to the 52. They would trash the triangle and start going to Kobe. You knew you were in trouble then. That was kind of a hard thing to design a defence for, because he could do so many things.”

More Casey:

“In his younger days, when he got to the baseline, it was death.

It was death when he got down there. He and Michael (Jordan) … both of them had that killer, laser-like mode, vision, focus. Both of them brought their team up. They were so much alike it was scary, the thing with the tongue and the whole nine yards at that time.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich at all-star weekend in Toronto in 2016:

“You remember all the struggles against him and all the competitiveness and you respect him so much for bringing it night after night after night.”

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These are the other 8 victims who died in the Kobe Bryant crash – Global News



A family of three, a mother-daughter pair and Kobe Bryant‘s own child, Gianna, were among the eight people who died alongside the NBA star in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday.

A total of nine people were killed when Bryant’s private Sikorsky S-76 helicopter went down in foggy conditions on Sunday, investigators said. The helicopter was on its way to a girls’ basketball game when it crashed.

Kobe Bryant fans flock to vigils held for basketball star

So far, here’s what we know about the people who died with Bryant in the crash.

NBA legend Kobe Bryant killed in helicopter crash near Los Angeles

NBA legend Kobe Bryant killed in helicopter crash near Los Angeles

Gianna Bryant

Gianna Bryant, 13, was the second-oldest of her father’s four children, all of them girls. She was commonly known as Gigi and was a rising star in girls’ basketball.

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Kobe Bryant is shown with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Kobe Bryant is shown with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Kobe Bryant/Instagram

Bryant took an active role in coaching Gianna at his Mamba Sports Academy, and he once touted her as a basketball star in the making.

Gianna (Gigi) Bryant — The 13-year-old loved basketball as much as her dad

He told Jimmy Kimmel in an 2018 interview that he didn’t need a son to carry on his legacy because he had Gianna.

“The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans would come up to me and she’ll be standing next to me,” Bryant told Kimmel. “And they’ll be like, ‘You’ve gotta have a boy, you and (Vanessa) gotta have a boy. You gotta have somebody to carry on your tradition, the legacy.’

“She’s like, ‘Oy, I got this,’” Bryant recalled. “I’m like, ‘That’s right. Yes, you do. You got this.’”

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Alyssa, Kerri and John Altobelli

Alyssa Altobelli, 13, and her parents, Kerri and John Altobelli, were also killed in the crash.

John Altobelli, 56, was the longtime head coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team in Southern California.

John Altobelli, 56, is shown in this photo shared by OCC Athletics.

John Altobelli, 56, is shown in this photo shared by OCC Athletics.

OCC Athletics/Twitter

The college described him as a “coach, a colleague, a mentor and a friend” who had worked there for 27 years.

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“He truly personified what it meant to be a baseball coach,” the school’s athletic director Jason Kehler said in a statement. “The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none — he treated them like family.”

Alyssa played on Gianna’s team at Mamba, CBS News reports. Kobe Bryant praised Alyssa’s defensive game in an Instagram video last November.

Christina Mauser

Christine Mauser, 38, was a girls’ basketball coach at a private school and a wife and mother, according to Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley.

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Christina Mauser’s husband, Matt, shared his memories of her in an emotional interview with the Today show.

“It’s horrible,” he said. “I got three small kids and am trying to figure out how to navigate life with three kids and no mom.”

He explained that Bryant had hand-picked his wife to be an assistant coach for Gianna’s Mamba Academy basketball team.

“He picked her because she was amazing,” Mauser said. “I was so proud of her and she was so happy.”

Matt Mauser is shown with his wife, Christina, in this 2014 photo from his Facebook page.

Matt Mauser is shown with his wife, Christina, in this 2014 photo from his Facebook page.

Matt Mauser/Facebook

Christina Mauser is survived by children aged 11, nine and three.

“She was beautiful, smart, funny,” Matt Mauser said.

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Sarah and Payton Chester

Sarah Chester and her middle school-aged daughter, Payton, were on the helicopter due to a break in their normal routine, Payton’s grandmother Catherine George told NBC News.

“They had to get on the helicopter as a convenience today,” George said. “They usually drove by car.”

Todd Schmidt, who was the principal at Payton’s former elementary school, described the Chester family as “engaged, supportive, encouraging and full of mischief and laughter.”

Payton Chester is shown in this image shared on Facebook by her former principal, Todd Schmidt.

Payton Chester is shown in this image shared on Facebook by her former principal, Todd Schmidt.

Todd Schmidt/Facebook

“This family made such a huge impact,” Schmidt wrote on Facebook. “While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important … Their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken.”

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Ara Zobayan

Friends and colleagues have identified the pilot as Ara Zobayan, the New York Times reports.

Ara Zobayan is shown in this file photo.

Ara Zobayan is shown in this file photo.


Zobayan was a longtime pilot and a dedicated flight instructor, student Darren Kemp told the Los Angeles Times. He added that Zobayan was Bryant’s private pilot whom he trusted.

“He doesn’t let anyone else fly him around but Ara,” Kemp told the L.A. Times.

Zobayan received his commercial pilot certificate in 2007, CBS reports.

With files from The Associated Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Kobe Bryant will be inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame this year, report says – CBC.ca



The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is bypassing the normal election process and making the late Kobe Bryant the first inductee of the 2020 class, The Athletic reported Monday.

“Expected to be arguably the most epic class ever with Kobe, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett,” Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo said, per the report. “Kobe will be honoured the way he should be.”

Bryant, 41, died Sunday along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif.

As an 18-time all-star, a five-time NBA champion and the fourth-leading scorer in league history, Bryant was virtually assured of being elected on the first ballot in his first year of eligibility this year anyway.

The other 2020 finalists will be announced Feb. 14 during all-star weekend.  The rest of the class will be announced in April at the Final Four, and Bryant’s posthumous induction will take place in Springfield, Mass., on Aug. 29.

WATCH | Raptors, Spurs honour Kobe Bryant with on-court tribute:

Both teams allow the 24 second shot clock to expire on their first possessions to pay respect to number 24, Kobe Bryant. 1:27

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