LeBron James issued his first comments since the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, which were posted on the Yahoo Sports Twitter feed and by other news organizations. James spoke with Bryant – who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning – on Saturday evening after passing him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
“Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have,” James wrote. James also vowed to carry on Bryant’s legacy. “It’s my responsibility to put this (bleep) on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me!”
We have more reaction from around the league on the loss of the Lakers legend:
- The Lakers brought in grief counselors to the team’s offices on Monday to help not only players and staff members cope with Bryant’s tragic death but also employees throughout the organization, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Bryant had many relationships with other Laker employees during his 20-year playing career, McMenamin notes. The counselors provided comfort and guidance in both group and one-on-one sessions, McMenamin adds. The league decided on Monday afternoon to postpone the team’s scheduled game with the Clippers on Tuesday out of respect for the Lakers organization.
- The organization thanked fans and well-wishers from around the world for the overwhelming support it has received since the tragedy. It issued a statement via the team’s PR department (Twitter link) which read, “The Los Angeles Lakers would like to thank all of you for the tremendous outpouring of support and condolences. This is a very difficult time for all of us. We continue to support the Bryant family and will share more information as it is available.”
- Kings coach and ex-teammate Luke Walton said the loss has not only deeply affected him but everyone around his team, as he told Chad Graff of The Athletic and other media members. “We talked about it. Life is hard. There are moments that challenge us,” Walton said. “What I’ve found is together we can get through that easier and more efficiently than we can alone. Guys here are hurting whether you knew him or not. He was that type of guy, and he had that type of impact on the NBA world that everybody is hurting.”
- Pop music icon Michael Jackson fueled Bryant’s passion for excellence, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski recalls in a November 2010 interview he did with Bryant. “He would teach me what he did: how to make a ‘Thriller’ album, a ‘Bad’ album, all the details that went into it,” Bryant told Wojnarowski. “It was all the validation that I needed — to know that I had to focus on my craft and never waver. Because what he did — and how he did it — was psychotic. He helped me get to a level where I was able to win three titles playing with Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) because of my preparation, my study. And it’s only all grown.”
- The fact that three teenagers, including Bryant’s daughter Gianna, perished in the helicopter crash was especially heartbreaking for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel relays. “Obviously this has been a horrible 24 hours,” he said. “And, as a parent, it absolutely crushes your heart to think about this. When something like this happens it can be so wrong and so arbitrary.”
- Bryant played the game with ferocity but he wasn’t fearless, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN writes. However, Bryant’s determination allowed him to overcome his fears. “To a certain extent, every day I was vulnerable,” he told Shelburne. “You’re always dealing with fear, with something in your imagination. Something that you think can happen. But you just say, ‘I don’t know if I can do that. But I’ll give it a try.'”