The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t have a game Tuesday night, as their scheduled contest against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center was postponed while the basketball world continues to mourn the shocking death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
Instead, the Lakers took part in something much more meaningful.
The Lakers gathered Tuesday at the team’s practice facility for the first time since Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died Sunday in a tragic helicopter crash in Southern California. Sources told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin an impromptu story session broke out as the club came together for a luncheon after a light workout and an optional shootaround.
Players, staffers and ownership reportedly were among those in attendance for the gathering, during which people took turns sharing their favorite Bryant memories. According to McMenamin, LeBron James recalled Bryant running over then-Lakers teammate Pau Gasol in Team USA’s gold-medal victory over Spain at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. This story reportedly prompted the Lakers’ director of sports performance, Dr. Judy Seto, to share that Bryant’s move was calculated, for Gasol had been labeled “soft” just months earlier in Los Angeles’ NBA Finals loss to the Boston Celtics.
Sources told McMenamin that players had a separate breakout session of their own at one point during Tuesday’s gathering, which featured a spread prepared by Lakers chef Sandra Padilla and a wine toast to Bryant’s legacy. The whole scene reportedly was viewed as the team’s first step toward a return to normalcy, as it was seen as a “centering” moment by several sources within the organization, according to McMenamin.
The Lakers are scheduled to return to the court Friday when they host the Portland Trail Blazers. They’ll obviously do so with heavy hearts, but Tuesday’s get-together should only help as the franchise seeks to overcome the loss of an icon.
Bryant spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers before retiring in 2016. He was just 41 at the time of his death.
Thumbnail photo via Harrison Hill/USA TODAY Sports Images