How the Lakers initially reacted on team plane to Kobe Bryant’s tragic death
While the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash just started to make waves, the Los Angeles Lakers were on a flight from Philadelphia to L.A. at the end of their 10-day, five-game road trip.
LeBron James had just passed Bryant as the third-leading scorer in league history, and he’d been congratulated by Bryant himself after his feat — first on social media and later on the phone.
Anthony Davis, who’d gotten guidance from Bryant himself during the 2012 Olympics, remembers watching “Avengers: Endgame” before getting a pat from Dwight Howard:
“So I remove one of my headphones, and I look,” Davis told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “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.'”
Rumors started to spread fast, but as soon as Lakers head coach Frank Vogel confirmed them, he felt it was his duty to clear the air, which he did after getting a reply from owner Jeanie Buss:
“That’s when I decided if it’s 100 percent true, then [the players are] all seeing reports and wondering,” said Vogel. “I felt like, as their coach, as their leader, I just instinctually felt like they should hear it from me immediately.”
It didn’t take long from the time Davis heard the news for him to wake up a sleeping LeBron James, who was in complete disbelief:
“I remember the first thing Bron said to me was, ‘Man, y’all stop playin’ — like, stop playing with me,'” said Davis. “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 was surely emotional, as his short-lived, one-year experience with Bryant had been known to be a rocky one. Simply put, he was devastated:
“It was like a movie scene when it happened,” said Howard. “I was extremely hurt.”
Coming home was supposed to be a good three-day rest before a showdown with the noisy neighbor Los Angeles Clippers, yet it wound out being a nightmarish coast-to-coast flight upon learning an all-time legend was no longer alive.