The Los Angeles Lakers were flying back to L.A when they were told of the tragedy that shook the world on January 26.
The team had just completed a 10-day, five-game road trip, with the last game coming in the form of a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on a night when LeBron James had passed Kobe Bryant for the third spot on the NBA’s all-time scorer’s list.
Despite the loss, LeBron must have been feeling proud of his monster achievement. Flying back home, though, he was too tired to feel anything and was fast asleep on the Lakers plane as it headed back to California.
Anthony Davis was wide awake, however. And when head coach Frank Vogel was alerted to the day’s happenings, with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss confirming shortly after, he was faced with the difficult job of breaking the news to his players.
“I can’t sleep on planes, and I’m watching my iPad,” Davis said, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. The center was wearing noise-canceling headphones but realized something was going on when he saw a phone screen flash out of the corner of his eye. He didn’t think much of it and continued watching Avengers: Endgame before he noticed Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins were trying to get his attention.
“So I remove one of my headphones, and I look,” he recalled. “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.'”
That’s when he began shaking the sleeping James.
“And I just like, start shaking Bron, like, ‘Wake up! Wake up!'”
“By this time, all the players have woken up,” Davis added. “Everybody’s trying to get to the internet to get on their phone and see what’s going on. ‘Is it true?’ Or, ‘What’s going on?’
“I remember the first thing Bron said to me was, ‘Man, y’all stop playin’ – like, stop playing with me. And I’m trying to get on the internet. And Dwight, like, you can see him start crying. He was like, ‘It’s true.’
“Everybody was crying. It was just like something that we didn’t believe, something that was shocking to all of us. Because Kobe, he’s touched so many, you know — players on this team, staff members. You know, Judy [Seto], his trainer; Rob [Pelinka, his] agent; Robert Lara, security. He touched so many people.”
Bryant, 41, perished in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other victims. They will be remembered in a memorial service at the Staples Center today, February 24.