LAS VEGAS -- A somber Magic Johnson implored fans to "come together" and not let "evil and hate" stop people from coming to Las Vegas before the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings tried to entertain fans and take their minds off the shooting that took place here last Sunday.
"This is a tough situation for all of us," Johnson, the Lakers team president, said as he addressed the crowd at the T-Mobile Arena on Sunday night before the Lakers-Kings preseason game. "We play this game, from Sacramento as well as from Los Angeles, with heavy hearts. ... Last Sunday, fifty-eight people lost their lives. Hundreds more were injured. We want to pray for the families who lost a loved one and want to support those families. And we want to also remember that it could have been one of us."
In what both teams intended to be a night of healing, the Lakers and Kings -- along with T-Mobile Arena, AEG and MGM Resorts International -- donated the proceeds of the game to benefit victims, families and first responders impacted by the tragic mass shooting on Oct. 1.
"We want to make sure that evil and hate don't stop us from coming to Las Vegas because this is a great city, and we live in a great country," added Johnson, who thanked the first responders and asked fans to lock arms and say a prayer for the victims and their families. "It doesn't matter the color of your skin, it doesn't matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, we have to come together and support everybody who was involved, so make sure that you continue to pray for those families. It is very, very important."
Johnson and controlling Lakers owner Jeanie Buss later met with Joe Robbins and his family courtside during the game. Robbins' 20-year-old son, Quinton, was one of the 58 people killed when Stephen Paddock fired hundreds of bullets from a 32nd-floor suite at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino into a crowd of 22,000 people attending a music festival on the Las Vegas strip, injuring another 489 people.
They helped 12-year-old Quade Robbins smile again. Joe Robbins had planned to bring his sons, Quinton and Quade, to the preseason game for Quade's birthday. The Lakers invited the Robbins family, Quinton's girlfriend and his friends to sit courtside a few seats away from Johnson and then brought them into the locker room to meet head coach Luke Walton and the players.
After conducting his postgame interview with the media, Walton spent nearly half an hour with the Robbins family, introducing them to as many Lakers players as he could while hugging all the family members and friends as much as he could. Joe Robbins cried as Walton embraced him and shared words.
In a heartwarming moment, Quade, wearing a gold No. 14 Lakers jersey, got to meet his favorite player, Brandon Ingram, as his emotional father and mother, Tracey, watched on.
"My son is a Laker fan, and I bought him the tickets for his birthday," Joe said of Quade, whose jersey was covered in Lakers' autographs by the end of the night. "They gave us eight tickets courtside, which is phenomenal. They are amazing. The Lakers organization is amazing. MGM Resorts have been amazing as well. [Johnson offered] his condolences, and just like he said [before the game], he was deeply saddened for our loss, and we appreciated it."
"It is one of the first times my son smiled in about six days," added Joe, who was wearing a black T-shirt with a big Q on it for Quinton, who played basketball and golf. "So that is good."
Before the game, both teams wore black shirts that had "#VegasStrong" written on them with the city skyline under it. Walton held a team meeting Monday to have players discuss their feelings about what happened.
"It was emotional, for sure," Walton said of the weekend in Las Vegas. "I think everybody, it's hard to talk about, it is hard to imagine what it was like. I think everyone was touched. It is a small world, and people know somehow, one way or another, people that were involved.
"I thought Magic said it great: He said we will never let evil win," Walton continued. "It was a great crowd today. The energy was phenomenal, money raised. It just shows how great the people are that live in our country and what sports is all about: bringing people together and giving them an escape sometimes."
Walton said his "god-sister" was injured in the shooting but is recovering at home now.
"I call her my god-sister," Walton said. "She has bullet fragments in her leg. Obviously, in the South Bay, there's the school teacher that got shot, someone who worked in the police force over there. There's all sorts of stories you hear, that you either know them or you know people who do know them. So it touched everybody."
The Lakers got into Las Vegas on Saturday, and Walton said he had never seen the city like it was this weekend. He praised the city for taking pride in rallying around one another.
"It's definitely different than any other time I've been here," Walton said of how it felt to be in Las Vegas this weekend. "... It's definitely a little strange [walking around] after what happened. I think it kind of shows why our country is so amazing and why our country needs a lot of help at the same time. You see both sides of it."
Center Stephen Zimmerman, who is in Lakers training camp, moved to Las Vegas when he was 6 and played at Bishop Gorman High School and for one year at UNLV.
"There were Instagram stories and stuff of [friends] running and hiding," Zimmerman said. "It's intimidating. It's scary to think about that someone you know [experienced] something like that. It hurts.
"It hurts. It feels way more personal. It's one of those things that's like you never know how it feels until it happens to you, and it feels like it happened to me. It's kind of hard to describe."
The day after the shooting, Walton initially wondered if the game should be played. But the Lakers coach knew the right thing to do was to play the game and keep things moving forward.
Joe Robbins seeing his son Quade smile again proved Walton right.
"At first, I didn't know what we were going to do, if we were going to come play at all," Walton said. "Is it not right to do? I think it's important that when tragedy like this happens, you don't live in fear. You've got to keep life going, I think a lot of people here love basketball. ... They love the Lakers here like it's their home team. And for them to come in here and just get away for a couple hours is great for them."