When news of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death first began to surface, the Los Angeles Lakers were in transit back home after an East Coast trip which saw LeBron James pass the legendary NBA star on the all-time scoring list against the Brooklyn Nets.
James was spotted coming off the team’s plane and visibly emotional as he hugged someone on the tarmac. James, Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard were among those who talked to ESPN in a story published Monday about the plane ride back to Los Angeles after learning about Bryant’s death.
Davis said he was on his iPad when Howard and then-Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins waved over to him.
“So I remove one of my headphones, and I look,” Davis said. “And Dwight tells me, ‘Man, Kobe died.’ And me thinking as invincible as Kobe Bryant is, I’m like, ‘Kobe who?’ Because I’m like, that’s not — it’s not Kobe Bryant.
“And he was like, ‘Kobe.’ And I was like, ‘OK. Kobe who? I’m not sure who you’re talking about.’ And he was like, ‘Kobe Bryant.’ And at this time, Bron is still asleep. So I was like, ‘Wait, what? How? Like, I need details, like, tell me.’ And he was like, ‘Man, helicopter crash.’”
Davis said he alerted James – who was also shocked as to what he was hearing.
“I remember the first thing Bron said to me was, ‘Man, y’all stop playin — like, stop playing with me,” Davis said. “And I’m trying to get on the internet. And Dwight, like, you can see him start crying. He was like, ‘It’s true.’”
Howard said he was “extremely hurt” by the news. According to ESPN, he went into the plane’s bathroom and began to cry.
James led the team in prayer on the plane.
“It was just off the top off my head, just off the cuff,” he told ESPN. “I think it was needed for us to come together and just give thanks to the man above.
“Even though at times we question him and question why he do some of the things that he do, 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. So, I don’t know, it wasn’t something I thought about. It was something that just kind of came to me, and I said my piece.”
The memorial service for Bryant and his daughter Gigi takes place at the Staples Center Monday at 1 p.m. ET.