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Lakers

NBA postpones Lakers-Clippers game that was set for Tuesday

Kobe Bryant stands near the Lakers’ bench during a timeout in a game against the Dallas Mavericks on March 8, 2015, at Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant stands near the Lakers’ bench during a timeout in a game against the Dallas Mavericks on March 8, 2015, at Staples Center.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Kobe Bryant always planned to call LeBron James once James passed him on the league’s all-time scoring list. Michael Jordan had done the same for Bryant.

So on Saturday night, after James did it in Philadelphia, Bryant made the call. It was the last time James heard Bryant’s voice. Less than 12 hours later Bryant, 41, died in a helicopter crash on a Calabasas hillside.

The grief and devastation permeating the Lakers organization was still thick and painful on Monday. Playing a game on Tuesday remained unfathomable, so the NBA postponed the Lakers’ home game against the Clippers. A makeup date will be determined later.

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“The decision was made out of respect for the Lakers organization, which is deeply grieving the tragic loss of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people in a helicopter crash on Sunday,” a statement released by the NBA read.

Discussions about whether or not the game should go on as scheduled began Sunday, with the league opting to defer to the Lakers.

The organization has been reeling since the tragic event Sunday morning. Their general manager, Rob Pelinka, was one of Bryant’s closest friends and Gianna’s godfather.

Lakers executives, including Jeanie Buss and Linda Rambis, spent time at the team facility on Sunday and Monday. Buss lost her mother and a close friend, former commissioner David Stern, in the last six weeks. Monday would have been her father’s 87th birthday. The Lakers were planning to honor Jerry Buss during Tuesday’s game, before Sunday’s crash changed everything.

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On Monday the team brought in grief counselors, who were made available to employees, according to a person familiar with the situation. Bryant’s history with many of them was long.

He became part of the organization in 1996. While there has been a great deal of turnover within the Lakers since then, several members of the organization remain from Bryant’s playing days.

The Lakers delayed making a statement out of deference to Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, and his three surviving daughters. On Monday afternoon, they broke their silence to announce the game’s postponement.

“The Los Angeles Lakers would like to thank all of you for the tremendous outpouring of support and condolences,” the statement read. “This is a very difficult time for all of us. We continue to support the Bryant family and will share more information as it is available.”

No formal plans have been made on how to honor Bryant, but the Lakers created a space Sunday for fans to gather and hold a vigil outside their facility. A large white canvas with a watermarked image of Bryant leaned against the wall for fans to sign, using Sharpies distributed by the Lakers. It was nearly full by Monday afternoon.

When his helicopter crashed, Bryant was on his way from Orange County to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks where his daughter, Gianna, was set to play a game.

Gianna Bryant, 13, was on the flight, as were two of her friends Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester. Altobelli’s parents, John and Keri, and Chester’s mother, Sarah, were also passengers on the flight, as well as Christina Mauser, an assistant coach at the Academy. Ara Zobayan flew the helicopter. There were no survivors.

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The Lakers were flying home from Philadelphia when they learned about the crash. Players became emotional as they heard the news and coach Frank Vogel addressed them once he heard. The team canceled practice for the next day, though a few players trickled into the facility.

On Sunday, the NBA kept its schedule. Several arenas conducted moments of silence in Bryant’s honor. Teams took 24-second shot-clock violations and eight-second backcourt violations, a nod to the two numbers Bryant wore in his career. Players were shown on television crying.

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young wore jersey No. 8, which Bryant wore at the start of his career, instead of his usual No. 11. Young had met Bryant and Gianna after the Hawks played the Lakers at Staples Center this season.

The league has not canceled or postponed games under such circumstances since 2013, when a game between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers was canceled in the wake of the Boston marathon bombings.

That game was not rescheduled because it was too late in the season.

The Clippers played on Sunday, but were emotionally drained.

During the game coach Doc Rivers saw Tyronn Lue, one of his assistants who played with Bryant, sitting on the bench with tears in his eyes.

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“I told our guys before the game, I don’t know how you handle this, it’s such a shock,” Rivers said. “Some of you may not feel anything right now. It may come out during the game. We’re not prepared, nobody is for tragedies like this. Nobody is.”

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