The Los Angeles Lakers returned to the court tonight five days after the passing of former Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant.
“Number 24, 6’6″, 20th campaign out of Lower Merion High School, Kobe Bryant.”
The days leading up to tonight’s game have not been easy and the days to come after tonight, won’t get any easier, but the Lakers continue to lean on each other.
Where the Lakers were Upon Hearing Kobe’s Death
For three hours the Lakers couldn’t call anyone after hearing the news of Kobe Bryant’s passing on Sunday—they were on the Los Angeles Lakers’ charter flight home from Philly.
Lakers broadcaster and former NBA player, Mychal Thompson told ESPN Senior Writer Ramona Shelbourne he hasn’t been able to sleep since he woke up to the nightmare on the plane.
Thompson had fallen asleep of the flight home when his partner, John Ireland woke him with the news:
“Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter accident and Gianna was with him. She’s gone too.”
Thompson said, since then, those words just keep playing over and over in his head.
Thompson told ESPN how he and Ireland and the other staff members were in the back of the plane, while coaches and players were in the front and everyone just sat silently in a daze.
Of course, the plane had Wi-Fi but nobody could make a phone call. Thompson said how he couldn’t wait to get to his family.
The former NBA player, Thompson introduced his sons Klay and Trayce to Kobe 20 years ago. He said how Klay was too shy then a few years down the road met up with Kobe train and ended up turning into an NBA star with the Golden State Warriors.
As soon as Klay Thompson heard the news, he tried calling his father. Thompson’s wife did the same. Three hours later, the plane landed and Thompson went home to be with his family and watch the news.
“You just try to find a reason,” Thompson told ESPN. “Was it mechanical? Was it weather? You just want to know what happened. How did this … how could something like this happen?
“And even if we do find out what happened, it doesn’t bring them back.”
The Decision to Cancel Tuesday’s Game
To help get through the tragedy, the Lakers arranged grief counselors for all of the players and employees. They also decided it would be best to cancel the Tuesday game against the LA Clippers and reschedule.
Tuesday was too soon, everyone was still in shock and they thought it wasn’t fair. And many of the employees grew close to Kobe over the 20 years he was there.
The Lakers held an optional practice on Tuesday and a special lunch where the entire organization: coaches, players, staff members, and executives gathered to celebrate Kobe’s life and achievements.
LA Mourns the Loss of Kobe
In remembrance of Kobe, the entire plaza outside of the Staples Center has been filled with purple and gold. It is open to the public from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. every day.
Fans have placed their personal Kobe and Lakers merchandise outside of the stadium from jerseys to hats and shoes, and pictures—hundreds of flowers and candles surround it all.
People are playing pickup basketball games from all different backgrounds and ages. You can hear Kobe chants for miles and a candlelight vigil is lit each night in honor of him.
The Lakers are not the only team honoring the NBA legend Kobe Bryant, several other teams have been doing the same throughout the week and will continue to do so in days to come.