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.
“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.
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.
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.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant pauses for a moment as confetti streams down at the Staples Center following his final game on April 13, 2016. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant, the teenager obtained by the Lakers in a trade with the Charlotte Hornets, takes part in an ad shoot for Adidas at Will Rogers State Beach. (Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant was already shooting his first commercial before taking his first shot for the Lakers. (Los Angeles Times)
Laker rookie Kobe Bryant, 18, listens to coach Del Harris during a break in a 129-99 victory over the Washington Bullets at the Forum. Bryant scored 13 points. (Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant drives against Utah center Greg Ostertag in the Western Conference Finals at the Forum in Inglewood. Utah won 109-98 to give the Jazz a 3-0 lead in the series. (Paul Morse / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant is dejected after losing the ball late in the second half of Game 3 of the 1999 Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs at the Forum. The Lakers lost, 103-91, giving the Spurs a 3-0 advantage in the series. The Spurs went on to win the series 4-0. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant drives past Chris Webber in Game 4 of the first round of the 2000 Western Conference playoffs at Arco Arena in Sacramento. The Kings won, 101-88, but the Lakers went on to win the series in five games and advanced to face the Phoenix Suns in the next round. (Bob Galbraith / Associated Press)
Despite Jason Kidd’s hand in his face, Kobe Bryant puts up the winning shot in the Lakers’ 97-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals at Staples Arena. The Lakers won the series, 4-1. (K.C. Alfred / Associated Press)
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal had a moment to relax after winning their first title together in the 2000 NBA Finals. The two kicked back after a 116-111 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 at Staples Center. Bryant is holding the championship trophy and O’Neal has his Finals MVP trophy. (Paul Morse / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant performs on stage at the House of Blues in West Hollywood in 2000 during a celebration of the launch of his record label, Heads High Entertainment. (Clarence Williams / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant is swarmed by teammates Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal as he heads to the foul line in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. Bryant scored 45 points as the Lakers beat the Spurs, 104-90, on their way to a sweep of the series. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant goes up for a dunk in the second quarter against the San Antonio Spurs during Game 3 of the 2001 Western Conference finals at Staples Center. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers players Kobe Bryant, left, Lindsey Hunter and Shaquille O’Neal celebrate their NBA title victory over the New Jersey Nets on June 12, 2002. (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant, with his wife, Vanessa, at his side, holds a news conference at Staples Center in 2003 to discuss accusations by a 19-year-old Colorado woman that he sexually assaulted her. He conceded he was guilty of adultery, but he declared he was innocent of charges of felonious sexual assault. The charges were later dropped. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Lakers Karl Malone, left, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Shaquille O’Neal before their preseason opener with the Los Angeles Clippers. It was Bryant’s first game since sexual assault charges were filed against him in Colorado. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant, left, looks at his defense attorney Pamela Mackey as he is advised by Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett during his felony sexual assault hearing in Eagle, Colo., on Aug. 6, 2003. (Barry Gutierrez / Associated Press)
Hours after pleading not guilty to a felony sexual assault charge in Colorado, an exhausted Kobe Bryant is congratulated by teammate Derek Fisher after the Lakers beat the San Antonio Spurs, 98-90, in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals at the Staples Center. Bryant scored 42 points as the Lakers tied the series at 2-2. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant writhes in pain after injuring his right ankle during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 13, 2005, in Los Angeles. Bryant was injured when he landed awkwardly on his right foot while going for a rebound under the Cavaliers’ basket and had to be helped off the court. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant and his new backcourt partner, William “Smush” Parker, during a 2005 preseason game against Utah at the Anaheim Pond. (Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant stands next to coach Phil Jackson during a playoff game against the Phoenix Suns in April 2006. (Matt York / Associated Press)
Kobe Bryant walks off the court with his wife, Vanessa, and daughter Natalia after scoring a career-high 81 points in a Lakers win over the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center on Jan. 22, 2006. (Noah Graham / NBAE/Getty Images)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant scores in front of Toronto’s Matt Bonner on his way to scoring 81 points during the Lakers’ 122-104 victory on Jan. 22, 2006. (Matt A. Brown / Associated Press)
Kobe Bryant celebrates the Lakers’ victory over the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant celebrates after winning his fourth NBA title following the Lakers’ win over the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals. (Emmanuel Dunand /AFP/Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant celebrates the Lakers’ Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant holds the NBA championship trophy during the team’s 2010 NBA title victory parade. (David McNew / Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant shows off what he can do with a basketball during an event in Milan, Italy, in September 2011. (Luca Bruno / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant goes up for a shot over New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler during a game in December 2011. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
U.S. players Kevin Durant, left, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant celebrate after winning the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press)
Kobe Bryant writhes in pain after suffering a torn Achilles tendon during a game against the Golden State Warriors on April 12, 2013. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant warms up before playing against the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 8, 2013, in his first game back from a torn Achilles tendon. (Harry How / Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant is congratulated by teammates after passing Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list during a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Dec. 14, 2014. (Jeff Wheeler / TNS)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant goes to hug his family after his final NBA game on April 13, 2016. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant poses with his family after getting his jerseys retired before a game between the Lakers and the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on Dec. 18, 2017. (Chris Carlson / Associated Press)
Lakers legend Kobe Bryant walks off the court after his jersey retirement ceremony at the Staples Center in 2017. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant smiles after winning an Academy Award for best animated short film for “Dear Basketball” on March 4, 2018. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant shares a laugh with his daughter Gianna while attending a women’s basketball game between Long Beach State and Oregon on Dec. 14, 2019. (Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant watches a tribute video at Staples Center before the final game of his career on April 13, 2016. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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.
“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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