The Los Angeles Lakers returned to Los Angeles Sunday, just hours after Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. Video from the team's arrival surfaced, appearing to show LeBron James wiping away tears and hugging team staffers. Less than 24 hours ago, James was celebrating passing Bryant on the all-time NBA scorers list, wearing shoes with "Mamba" written on them.
LeBron James & the Lakers just arrived in LA. So sad man 😢pic.twitter.com/PeFJGt4SZV— Lakers Empire (@LakersEmpire) January 26, 2020
On Saturday night, the Lakers were in Bryant's native Philadelphia to play the 76ers. During the game, James passed Bryant for third place on the all-time leading scorers list. James showed great respect for Bryant by writing "Mamba 4 Life" and "8/24 KB" on his sneakers, referring to Bryant's nickname and the now-retired numbers he wore for the Lakers.
"It's another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school," James told reports after the game Saturday, reports ESPN. "Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration. It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So, just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it's very humbling and it's dope."
Bryant's final tweet was a message for James. "Continuing to move the game forward [James]," Bryant wrote Saturday night. "Much respect my brother."
The Lakers have Sunday and Monday off before they have to play again. On Tuesday night, they play their hometown rival Clippers at the Staples Center at 10 p.m. ET.
Although James has not issued a statement on Bryant's death yet, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league is "devastated" by his death and the death of his daughter, Gianna Bryant, 13.
"For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning," Silver wrote in a statement. "He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals. But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna."
"We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization and the entire sports world," the statement continued.0comments
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department confirmed nine people, including the pilot, died in the crash.
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