ORLANDO, Fla. — Green Bay Packers linebacker Za'Darius Smith hastily organized an homage to Kobe Bryant minutes before the Pro Bowl.
Smith and his NFC teammates learned about Bryant's death while they were in the locker room getting ready for the NFL's annual all-star exhibition Sunday afternoon. Smith suggested the best way to pay tribute to the late NBA great was to mimic his fadeaway jumper after big plays.
So they did — repeatedly.
It was one of several ways Bryant was remembered during the celebratory event, which the AFC won 38-33 for its fourth consecutive victory in Orlando.
"I don't even want to talk about it anymore," Smith said in the locker room hours later. "I don't want to get emotional."
Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay didn't duck his feelings. He grew up idolizing Bryant so much that he had a custom Los Angeles Lakers hoodie made to warm up in before NFL games. Slay also got to meet Bryant a few years ago.
"It's heart-wrecking," Slay said with tears in his eyes. "There's not any words you can say. I'm in shock. I just imagine him growing old, being part-owner of the Lakers and having a future son I could cheer for next. It's just shocking. Me saying the words 'Kobe's gone,' that's just crazy."
Bryant, 41, died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California — his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others also were killed — and the news spread shortly before the game. It put a damper on the NFL showcase held on the other side of the country. Players on the sidelines checked their phones for updates, all of them looking for information and answers.
"It shocked the whole locker room," Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "Nobody thought it was true, but it was. It's a sad day for sports."
Smith, Slay and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Shaq Barrett got together after a second-quarter sack and delivered their first "Kobe J." Even more NFC teammates performed the routine after a fumble in the third.
Green Bay receiver Davonte Adams pointed to the sky and flashed the No. 24 on his fingers as an ode to Bryant's jersey after a touchdown catch in the third. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson led a prayer for Bryant and his family before the game.
The NFL also held a moment of silence for Bryant at the 2-minute warning in the first half, showing the retired NBA star's picture on the scoreboards. Several players removed their helmets during the break. Others took a knee and prayed. Fans broke the silence by chanting "Ko-be! Ko-be!"
"I felt hurt," Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson said. "It's sad. I don't know how it feels to lose a husband and a child, so I don't understand what the family's going through. It's got to be tough."
Aside from the Bryant tributes, the NFL's annual all-star game went as expected. There were big plays everywhere and few tackles anywhere. The teams combined for 834 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The play of the day was Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt's 82-yard fumble return in the fourth. The Jacksonville Jaguars' Calais Campbell beat the Dallas Cowboys' Travis Frederick to sack the Washington Redskins' Kirk Cousins on a fourth-and-goal play from the 9. Campbell stripped the ball, which Watt scooped up and went untouched the other way to put the AFC ahead 38-27.
The NFC had a chance to rally late and tried to take advantage of a new rule that allows the scoring team to retain possession by facing a fourth-and-15 play from its own 25-yard line. Cousins threw a deep ball that Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas intercepted.
Campbell was named the AFC's defensive player of the game. Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson — the front-runner for the NFL season MVP honor that will be announced this week — was the offensive honoree.
The winners earned $70,000 each. The losers got $35,000 apiece.
Jackson threw for 185 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson passed for 148 yards with a touchdown and a pick.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill hooked up with Jacksonville's DJ Chark for a 60-yard score on which officials opted not to rule him down after two defenders touched him.
Wilson gave his NFC starting spot to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who is contemplating retirement.
Brees, Cousins and Wilson threw touchdown passes for the NFC, which also allowed Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Packers receiver Adams to attempt throws. Elliott's was picked off. Adams also had two touchdown catches.
The NFC's top highlight was Cox rumbling 61 yards for a score. Minnesota's Harrison Smith intercepted a pass from Watson at the 3-yard line and returned it to the 39 before lateraling to Cox, who took it the rest of the way.
No one tried to tackle the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Cox, though Denver Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton slapped at the ball for the final 20 yards.
"I'm glad nobody did try to stop me," Cox said. "It was fun. I was looking for somebody to pitch the ball to, though. Guarantee I was. Get this thing out of my hands."