Photo: Kelvin Kuo/AP

Like anybody else in the sports industry, LeBron James offered his own heartfelt thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Grant Wahl.

The Los Angeles Lakers star holds a fond familiarity with Wahl, who reportedly passed away while covering the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The renowned soccer journalist was once a senior writer for Sports Illustrated which became a major platform in introducing the then-high school phenom James into the wide world of basketball and national prominence.

Wahl penned down a story in SI, wherein a big teaser of “THE CHOSEN ONE” was marked on the cover page of their famous publication back on Feb. 18, 2002. With how situations have gone in after 20 years, who would have thought that James will eventually live up to this bold and daring tag?

James had a nostalgic moment of recalling his memories posing up on the cover of the SI while delivering his thoughts about his encounter and coverage from around Wahl during his humble days as the undisputed star of St. Vincent – St. Mary High School.

“My condolences go out to his family,” said James following the Lakers’ Friday loss against the Sixers. “I saw his brother say something as well. Until we get further details into what transpired [I will not comment further on the nature of his death]. 

“But I’m very fond of Grant and having that cover shoot – me being a teenager and him covering that, it was pretty cool thing. And he was always pretty cool to be around. He spent a lot of time in my hometown of Akron covering me over the course of time before that cover story came out.”

It remains yet to be determined what was the true cause of Wahl’s death. As told by a witness on CNN, he “collapsed” in the press area while covering the Argentina-Netherlands bout on Friday. Meanwhile, Tim Scanlan, his agent, provided to Reuters that Wahl had “appeared to suffer some kind of acute distress in the start of extra time” of the quarterfinal match.

Though this may serve as key information, any clear indication of the shocking news remains sparse.

His basketball coverage of James as a high school standout stands as one of his proudest accomplishments, but his time dedicating his sports life to soccer will remain much more decorated and notable. Wahl’s run with Sports Illustrated has been wonderful and paved the way towards the relevance of soccer within the United States.

“I’ve always kind of watched from a distance,” James added. “Even when I moved up in the ranks and became a professional and he kind of went to a different sport and things of that nature over the years, anytime his name would come up I would always think back to me as a teenager and having Grant in our building down at St. V. 

“So, it’s a tragic loss. It’s unfortunate to lose someone as great as he was and I wish his family, like I said, the best. And may he rest in paradise.”