The NBA as a whole is still devastated over the death of the legend Kobe Bryant. Bryant was killed along with his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas while on their way to the Mamba Academy on the morning of January 26, 2020. He passed away a day after LeBron James broke his NBA record in career points scored. This tragedy affected many of the players–resulting in grief. The players of the Los Angeles Lakers found out about his passing while they were on their plane flight back from Philadelphia. The players were heartbroken, and Quinn Cook was spotted outside of Staples Center on the day of Kobe’s death. James was recorded crying in the arms of Savanna, his wife, and someone that worked with the team.
Shaquille O’Neal was in disbelief when the news was broken to him. O’Neal, along with Ernie Johnson Jr, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Dwyane Wade then had a segment reflecting on the life of Bryant on TNT. O’Neal was very emotional talking about him and while reminiscing on the past when they used to play with each other. The teammates famously feuded, but they were able to overcome their problems and forge a close friendship that now leaves O’Neal with regrets in the face of his friend’s tragic and untimely death. “I wish we would have communicated more,” O’Neal explained. He went on to say that he was close to Bryant’s kids and that Bryant was close to his own children. He later said most of us take stuff for granted and thanked the people he played with and against during his time in the NBA.
On January 31, the Lakers had their first game since the tragedy. Every fan was given a Kobe Bryant shirt with the numbers 8 or 24. Bouquets of red roses were placed on the two empty, courtside seats that Kobe and Gianna occupied on their last visit to Staples Center to watch a Laker game. Bryant’s yellow No. 24 Lakers jersey was pulled over one. Gianna’s black No. 2 jersey from Mamba Sports Academy was pulled over the other.
Before the game started, LeBron James came out with a speech reflecting on Byrant’s life. James vowed that he and the Lakers would carry on Bryant’s legacy. He closed by echoing Bryant’s retirement speech. “In the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba Out,’ but in the words of us, ‘Not Forgotten.’ The enormity of Bryant’s impact made his name ubiquitous that night. When the Lakers ran out for the starting lineup, each player was announced the same way: “No. 24, 6 feet, 6 inches, 20th year from Lower Merion High School. Kobe Bryant.” It was a special and memorable night to honor Kobe and his daughter Gianna.