NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 29: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets wears a Kobe Bryant warmup shirt against the Detroit Pistonsduring their game at Barclays Center on January 29, 2020 in New York City.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Prior to tipoff in the Brooklyn Nets’ matchup with the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, Kyrie Irving was seen tearing up.

This past Sunday, the Brooklyn Nets took on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden without their best player. Kyrie Irving missed the game but not due to injury, which has been the common reason for him to sit out matchups this year.

After learning of Kobe Bryant‘s tragic death, Kyrie chose not to take part. Irving possessed a very close relationship with Bryant through the years and decided that playing basketball Sunday evening wasn’t the best choice.

Nonetheless, Irving returned to the lineup on Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons and displayed numerous emotions prior to tipoff.

Being that Kobe was around 13.5 years older than Irving, he acted as a mentor to the young point guard. Bryant’s 20th and final year in the pros (2015-16) was Kyrie’s fifth. Irving was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers during that campaign.

Kobe was 41 years old when he died via a helicopter crash, as he leaves an unmatched legacy in this league. Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also passed away in the accident.

Irving has experienced an injury-plagued go-around in his inaugural campaign with the Nets. He signed a four-year deal worth nearly $136.5 million this past offseason. Wednesday night’s matchup with Detroit is just his 18th game of the year. He missed 26 straight contests from November to January due to a lingering shoulder injury.

Prior to Wednesday night, Irving was averaging 27.2 points and 6.7 assists on 46% shooting from the field.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.