In their first game since the death of Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staple Center on Friday. The game was dedicated to the recently deceased basketball legend and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. While the team and fans paid various tributes to Bryant, many noticed that Lakers superfan Jack Nicholson was not at the venue during the game. This left many fans to question why the acting legend’s unexpected absence at the game.
The 82-year-old actor has been at practically every Lakers game since becoming a season ticket holder in the 1970s. For the past 25 years, Nicholson has been a prominent courtside staple at Laker home games. During Bryant’s 20-plus years as a Laker, Nicholson remained a presence (even interacting with Bryant) during many games at the team’s home arenas – The Forum and Staple Center. During a Lakers playoff game, the acting legend was almost ejected for yelling at an official.
Many fans posted about looking for the acting legend in the audience during the tribute at the Staple Center.
“Great Kobe tribute at Staples Center. Is Jack Nicholson at the game tonight? Spotted @RobertWuhl courtside,” one fan on social media wrote.
Some felt Nicholson might have been too emotional to watch the tribute.
“I’m curious to see Jack Nicholson’s reaction to the Kobe tribute tonight,” another user wrote on Twitter. “I’m betting he’s bawling like a baby. Man loved him some Kobe. #MambaMentality #KobeForever #KobeRIP #KobeandGianna #LakerNation.”
Recently, an emotional Nicholson spoke with CBS Los Angeles in a rare interview about Bryant’s death.
“My reaction is the same as almost all of L.A.,” Nicholson said. “Where we think everything’s solid, there’s a big hole in the wall. I was used to seeing and talking to Kobe that… it kills you. It’s just a terrible event.”
During Bryant’s years as a Los Angeles Laker, Nicholson became a fan as well as a close friend to the deceased basketball icon.
"My reaction is the same as almost all of LA… where everything was solid there’s a big hole in the wall." Longtime Lakers fan Jack Nicholson opens up about the loss of Kobe Bryant https://t.co/tkywL6dvpI pic.twitter.com/pZAOuEePKY
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) January 27, 2020
During the rare interview, the actor reminisced about watching Bryant’s shooting game evolve during his time as a Laker.
“I sat right behind his jump shot on the left-hand side,” Nicholson continued. “I can see him going up and I can tell the first instant if it’s going in. I remember the totality of how great a player he was… We’ll think of him all the time and we’ll miss him.”
Nicholson was so fascinated by Bryant’s game as early as his debut season with the Lakers.
Jack Nicholson Asks 19 Years Old Kobe Bryant for his Autograph! Kobe Lik… https://t.co/ODaUIPgjpD
— Genco Boran (@GencoBorann) February 2, 2020
Given the legendary actor’s emotional response to Bryant’s unexpected death, Nicholson’s lack of presence at the tribute was understandable due to the closeness between the two men. The shared connection between the actor and basketball player grew over time as Bryant grew from a high school phenom to a basketball icon.
So in that respect, being courtside at the tribute given Nicholson’s reaction may have been a bit much for him to handle as Bryant’s death was still too fresh.