Greatest collection of basketball talent?
LOS ANGELES – Between the tears and laughs, Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma scanned the room.
Auriemma stood on stage to commemorate Kobe and Gianna Bryant, who were among the nine people that died in a helicopter crash nearly a month ago. So after speaking for nearly 10 minutes, Auriemma could not help but notice all who listened attentively.
“An incredible amount of talent in this room,” Auriemma said. “Maybe the greatest collection of talent that I’ve ever been around.”
Maybe the greatest collection of basketball talent ever. Monday’s memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant at Staples Center was a who’s who of the basketball universe.
After Vanessa Bryant spoke emotionally about her late husband and 13-year-old daughter, the speakers included an accomplished WNBA player (Dianna Taurasi), a top woman’s basketball player (Sabrina Ionescu), a six-time NBA champion (Michael Jordan) and a former four-time NBA champion (Shaquille O’Neal).
Who else was in the crowd?
Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, WNBA star Lisa Leslie, former Spurs player Tim Duncan, former Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade, former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen, former Boston Celtics player Paul Pierce, former NBA player Caron Butler, Warriors general manager Bob Myers and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
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There were also plenty of Lakers luminaries, including Magic Johnson, Phil Jackson, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Elgin Baylor, Michael Cooper, Pau Gasol, Byron Scott, Metta World Peace, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, A.C. Green, Rick Fox, Brian Shaw, Sasha Vujacic and former trainer Gary Vitti.
The current Lakers included controlling owner Jeanie Buss, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee.
In addition, there were active NBA players there who were scheduled to play in games Monday evening.
For members of the Clippers, it was an easy commute as they are hosting the Memphis Grizzlies at 10:30 p.m. ET at Staples Center. But James Harden and Russell Westbrook were expected to make it back to Houston for the Rockets’ 8 p.m. ET game vs. the New York Knicks. And Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns has a game scheduled for 9 p.m. ET in Utah.
Plus, Ionescu, plays for the University of Oregon, was scheduled to fly to Palo Alto for Oregon’s game against Stanford at 9 p.m. ET.
Other current NBA players in attendance included, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, San Antonio’s DeMar DeRozan, and Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes.
It is not immediately clear how the Lakers and AEG planned the event together and compiled the list. But the Lakers collaborated with Vanessa Bryant, who wanted to keep the event as private as could be possible. Staples Center and Lakers officials also urged fans without a ticket to stay away from L.A. Live to minimize the congestion outside the arena.