Paris Saint-Germain defeated Lille OSC on Sunday at the Stade Pierre Mauroy thanks to a brace from Neymar Jr. The win pushed PSG’s lead in Ligue 1 to 10 points over rivals Olympique de Marseille.
Hanging over the entire match was the news of Kobe Bryant’s death. News of the helicopter crash in California that claimed the life of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna on Sunday broke prior to kickoff and it’s likely that the players did not know.
After Neymar’s goal in the first half, his celebration was rather traditional and there was no indication that he was aware of what happened to Bryant.
PSG went into halftime up 1-0 and that is when we would later learn that Neymar learned of Bryant’s death via social media.
Neymar scored a somewhat controversial penalty kick in the 58th minute and afterward, he held up a 2-4 with his hands (Bryant’s jersey number) and clutched his hands together in prayer before pointing to the sky. It was a clear tribute to his friend.
The match ended 2-0 and after the final whistle, Neymar spoke to Canal+ (via Culture PSG) and was asked about the celebration.
“I went to see the messages on social media at half-time, I saw that Kobe died and it is a great sadness for the world of sport and for all of us, not only basketball fans but also for everything he did for sport. I knew him and I made this celebration for him, with his number. I hope he will rest in peace.”
Like many NBA athletes said on Sunday who had to play a game, Bryant would have wanted them to compete and that’s exactly what Neymar and PSG did.
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