Nets' Kyrie Irving Reportedly Shaken by Kobe Bryant's Death, Leaves Madison Square Garden Ahead of Tonight's Game

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is sitting out Sunday's game against the New York Knicks. He left the arena after learning about Kobe Bryant's death in a helicopter crash. Irving and Bryant had a very close friendship, to the point that the Los Angeles Lakers star served as a mentor.

According to Nets beat writer Anthony Puccio, Irving actually left Madison Square Garden after hearing the tragic news about Bryant. He never returned and was expected to be absent from Sunday's game against the New York Knicks.

The Nets confirmed this news shortly before 5 p.m. ET. The team announced that Irving would be sitting out the game due to "personal reasons."

"We have a player who was very close to Kobe," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said prior to Sunday's game, per Yahoo Sports. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him also."

Speaking about Irving during an appearance on SiriusXM in 2019, Bryant reflected on his relationship with Irving. He explained that he had given the young Nets star some advice prior to a game, and it had worked out beautifully.

"I remember sitting on the couch at home, after Cleveland came back from that 3-1 deficit and beat Golden State," Bryant said. "We're watching the game, me and Gianna are just there, hanging out. And my phone rings. And it's a FaceTime call. ... It's Kyrie. I pick it up. And Kyrie's in the locker room celebrating on FaceTime. Like, 'Dude! It worked! Your advice worked!'"

When the news surfaced that Bryant had passed away in a helicopter crash, the immediate response from the fans was to cancel upcoming games and let the players mourn. They were worried about the mental state of those that played with Bryant or grew up watching him win five championships.

As many wrote on Twitter, they were happy that Irving left Madison Square Garden to properly mourn his friend and mentor. They wanted him to focus on his mental health instead of a game against the Knicks. This was a far more important than suiting up and heading onto the court hours after learning of a tragedy.

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All of the scheduled games proceeded as planned, but the impact of Bryant's death was evident. Some players were struggling with emotions while sitting courtside while some commenting teams talked about how they didn't want to call the game due to their sadness.

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