The Sports Report: An emotional night for Lakers and fans

LeBron James speaks to the fans before Friday's game.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Times columnist Bill Plaschke was at the Lakers’ first game since the death of Kobe Bryant. Here’s an excerpt:

Through the blackness, there appeared shouts of light.

“Ko-be! Ko-be!” the crowd chanted in a darkened Staples Center. “Gi-gi! Gi-gi!”

Through the bleakness, there appeared a voice of hope.

“I want to … continue his legacy ... because that’s what Kobe Bryant would have wanted,” LeBron James announced.

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Amid the wake, there was an awakening, as the Lakers both mourned loss and celebrated life Friday in an extraordinary show of fortitude and family.

It was their first game since Sunday’s shocking death of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.

It might have been their most impactful game ever.

Nobody is going to remember the 127-119 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, but nobody will forget how a franchise linked arms with a mourning city and helped guide it on the first steps out of a nightmare.

Read the rest of Bill’s column by clicking here.


Read more on Kobe and the Lakers:

Vanessa Bryant requests for some items left at Staples Center fan memorial for Kobe

LeBron James delivers a king’s speech in the most trying of Lakers times

Lakers seek closure with tributes to Kobe Bryant in emotional return to basketball

NBA to honor Kobe Bryant and helicopter crash victims on All-Star uniforms


Aari McDonald scored 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting, and No. 16 Arizona beat No. 8 UCLA 92-66 on Friday night.


Sam Thomas added 20 points as the Wildcats (17-3, 6-3 Pac-12 Conference) got off to a hot start, took a big lead and never allowed the Bruins back into the game. Arizona’s win was its first over a top 10 opponent since February 2004.

McDonald, a junior guard from Fresno, has scored in double figures in all 57 games of her college career, the longest active streak in the nation. She has 10 20-point games this season.

Michaela Onyenwere had 17 points and 12 rebounds to lead UCLA (18-2, 7-2). Guard Charisma Osborne added 14 points.


Reili Richardson made a three-pointer with 1.9 seconds left in the third overtime, and No. 19 Arizona State edged USC 76-75 on Friday for coach Charli Turner Thorne’s 500th career victory.

Alyson Miura’s long three-pointer at the buzzer did not hit the rim as USC’s three-game winning streak ended. Endyia Rogers scored a career-high 30 points for the Trojans (11-9, 3-6 Pac-12 Conference). Alissa Pili had 18 points and seven rebounds, and Aliyah Jeune had 13 points and four steals.


Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist for his fifth straight multipoint game, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his 150th career NHL win, and the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Ducks 4-3 on Friday night.

Vasilevskiy — who has 13 straight wins in regulation — stopped 23 shots. He is the fourth goalie in league history to get 150 victories in less than 250 games played (246). The others are Ken Dryden (241), Andy Moog (245) and Braden Holtby (246).

“You look in the last few years here, we have some special players on this team and he is right at the top,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s great to see him being rewarded like that, especially in that last stretch.”


A key informant in the federal investigation into college basketball corruption that ensnared USC, Arizona and several other schools is cooperating with the NCAA’s probe of the matter.

Marty Blazer, a former financial advisor from Pittsburgh, made the disclosure in a sentencing memorandum filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan late Thursday.

“There are pending actions alleging NCAA violations against a number of colleges and universities and Mr. Blazer continues to cooperate with the NCAA’s investigation into corruption,” the filing said.

At least five schools — USC, Kansas, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State and Texas Christian — have received notices of allegation from the NCAA in connection with the investigation.


The nature of Blazer’s cooperation wasn’t detailed.


Lindsey Horan scored three goals, and the U.S. national team downed Panama 8-0 on Friday night in the the group stage of the CONCACAF women’s Olympic qualifying tournament.

Panama goalkeeper Yenith Bailey got tangled up with one of her own players and Horan took advantage, scoring in the third minute to give the World Cup-winning Americans the early lead.

Some two minutes after Lynn Williams’ goal in the 16th minute, Horan scored her second of the game. Rose Lavelle got her first goal since the World Cup final to make it 4-0 in the 21st.


In the aftermath of the disappointing season, coach Sean McVay has revamped his coaching staff. He chose not to retain veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and replaced him with Brandon Staley, a linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos the last three seasons.

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is taking Phillips’ departure in stride.

“He was great,” Donald said. “Everybody knows he’s been doing it a long time with a lot of success and coached a lot of great players.

“He’s a guy that helped our defense to do a lot of great things, helped us as individual players to have success, so he put us in great positions. He’s definitely a guy you’re going to miss.

“Just a part of the business. It sucks, but just got to understand it’s a business.”

Read more NFL

Chiefs offer nothing but superlatives for former Rams receiver Sammy Watkins


Tight ends Travis Kelce and George Kittle ready to showcase their skills on Super Bowl stage

Richard Sherman says first Super Bowl as a dad ‘gives him something to fight for’


All times Pacific.

Lakers at Sacramento, 7 p.m., Spectrum Sportsnet, 710 ESPN

Minnesota at Clippers, 12:30 p.m., Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Ducks at Kings, 7:30 p.m., FSW, PRIME

Colorado vs. USC (men), 7:30 p.m., FS1, 790 KABC


1940: Harness racing driver Hervé Filion (d. 2017)

`1944: Baseball player Paul Blair (d. 2013)

1959: Football player Wade Wilson (d. 2019)

1966: Soccer player Michelle Akers

1968: Hockey player Mark Recchi

1972: Hockey player Geoff Sanderson

1987: MMA fighter Ronda Rousey


2006: Former Ram Dick Bass, 68

2012: Boxing trainer Angelo Dundee, 90

2019: Football player Wade Wilson, 60


The Lakers pay tribute to Kobe Bryant. Watch it here.

Until next time...

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