Kobe Bryant's untimely death shocked the entire sports community. Los Angeles Lakers unsurprisingly paid tribute to their legend. From head coach Frank Vogel to stars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Lakers players and squad, all mourned the death of one of the league's greatest. Lakers learnt the tragic news on the team plane flying home from Philadelphia, after another dominating win over the 76ers. What started with instant disbelief quickly turned into a tragedy and a long flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.
ESPN shared the details of the Lakers flight quoting Frank Vogel, "There was that uncomfortable time, feeling like. This is a crazy report". Vogel further noted that his expectation was to hear that it was a false report.
Speechless on this plane ride home! A sad day bruh! RIP Kobe Bean Bryant! Prayers go to his family and loved ones 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽 This doesn’t even feel real man..— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) January 26, 2020
Speaking to ESPN, Anthony Davis expressed his disbelief when he learnt the sad news from teammate Dwight Howard. It was revealed that LeBron James, who had just passed Kobe Bryant as No. 3 in NBA All-Time scoring charts, spoke to Bryant the same morning. Davis further added that it was he who had to take the new to LeBron. The 26-year old stated that LeBron James instantly broke down as Davis tried to console him.
With the rest of the Lakers players just digesting the news of Kobe Bryant's death, LeBron James reportedly took charge of the situation. Vogel stated that he confirmed the reports with Lakers president Jeanie Buss and it was all LeBron after that.
"Even though at times we question him and question why he does some of the things that he does, know that he's never made a mistake. And just hope that he has his hands on top of Vanessa [Bryant] and the kids at that time, and hope that he continues to watch over all of us." - LeBron James on Kobe Bryant as quoted by ESPN
This was unsurprisingly one of the hardest and longest flights for the Lakers. With the Lakers trying to contain their emotions, LeBron James was even spotted crying when the team touched down at the LA airport.
In the coming days, LA Lakers paid tribute to their legend at the Staples Center ahead of their game against Portland Trail Blazers on January 31. LeBron James and others also paid heartfelt tributes to Bryant on social media.
That brings us to February 24 (February 25 IST), when thousands of fans gathered at the Staples Center to remember the late Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna (Gigi) and the seven other victims of the tragic crash. The sold-out memorial to dedicated to Bryant's legacy in LA saw a speech from Bryant's wife Vanessa Bryant while performances from Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera. Lakers even announced that proceeds from ticket sales would be donated to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.