Kobe Bryant: LeBron James Refused to Believe Lakers Star Died After News Broke During Team Flight to LA

When news of Kobe Bryant's death from a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 hit, the Los Angeles Lakers were mid-flight after a five-game road trip and headed back to L.A. An article published by ESPN on Monday breaks down the players' individual reactions. Particularly LeBron James, who was told by teammate Anthony Davis.

At first, James was asleep, and as he awoke, he refused to believe the news, telling Davis, "Man, y'all stop playin', like, stop playing with me.'"

"I'm trying to get on the internet," Davis recalled, "And Dwight, like, you can see him start crying. He was like, 'It's true.'"

While shocked by the news, James did the first thing he thought of: lead his teammates in prayer.

"It was just off the top of my head, just off the cuff," James said. "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," James continued. "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."

On Monday, a formal Celebration of Life was held for Bryant as well as his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who was also killed in the crash. While the event was filled with emotional moments, including a heartbreaking speech from Vanessa Bryant, James himself was noticeably absent. Lakers' beat writer Dave McMenamin had spoken with ESPN Monday night saying that James needed to process his grief privately.

"I spoke to several members of the Lakers who were there today, and they didn't see LeBron," McMenamin explained. "Rich Paul and his agent told our Stephen A. Smith that 'LeBron's in his own space.' Space could be somewhere away from Staples Center, it could be part of Staples Center."


McMenamin also said that he'd spoken to LeBron during the team's first game after Bryant's death, who said that he was having difficulty processing what had happened.

"He told me, in that moment, that it was the toughest week of his life," McMenamin continued. And so, me knowing that it wouldn't surprise me that he made a decision similar to yours to say: 'Of course I'm devastated. Of course, I respect Kobe Bryant, I respect his family, I respect the Lakers. For me, to be the best I can be for everybody else, maybe not be involved in that today.'"