LeBron James and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers returned home to the sad news that Kobe Bryant had died while they were still in transit.
On Sunday morning, the sad news that Bryant had died in a helicopter crash became public news. The information spread quickly — even to the Lakers team that was flying back from a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
James — who had developed a strong relationship with Bryant when they were members of Team USA together — appeared to have taken the news really hard.
In the video below —which was shared on social media by sports analyst Chamatkar Sandhu — James can be seen after he exited the team plane in Los Angeles.
Also in the video, James gets hugs from two people already on the ground as he begins to walk solemnly across the tarmac.
The video is very poignant when it becomes obvious that James is wiping away tears. That is how reports on ESPN from the airport have described a number of Lakers players as they arrived back home.
LeBron James. 😢 pic.twitter.com/4g9zD2EQ2p
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) January 26, 2020
LeBron James and Kobe Bryant forever linked in NBA history
It was quite the coincidence that in a game that the Lakers played against the 76ers on Saturday night that James passed Bryant on the all-time scoring list for the NBA. Bryant even paid his respects to James on Twitter that evening, noting that he had much respect for his “brother.”
It was a tough day for the league, its fans, and the Bryant family. On Tuesday night (January 28), the league might be able to pay its respects to one of its greatest in a grand fashion. The Lakers host the Clippers at Staples Center, suggesting there could be a tribute already in the works.
The atmosphere is going to be a tough one to play in on Tuesday night, but that is how it will be for any NBA players who either played with or against Bryant over the years.
Here is the front page of tomorrow’s paper and special section remembering Kobe Bryant: pic.twitter.com/FgRuABMZq4
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 27, 2020
Dark shadow hangs over NBA season
Nine people were reportedly killed when the helicopter crashed on Sunday. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, Orange Coast College baseball coaching legend John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa were among the victims.
There have been murmurs about the league canceling or postponing games this week, but nothing has been made official in that regard. LeBron James also hasn’t spoken to the media about what has happened, but that will be unavoidable as the week progresses.