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Inside Lakers’ flight back to LA when they heard about Kobe’s death and LeBron James led a team prayer

The morning after he caught up with Kobe Bryant for third place on the NBA’s scoring list and received a congratulatory call from his retired former rival, Lakers star LeBron James noticed that he was leading a spontaneous prayer circle on a team flight back to Los Angeles, he has revealed, in an attempt to understand the tragic helicopter crash that killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others last month.

“It was just above my head, just next to the cuff,” James said Dave McMenamin from ESPN from the moment he heard about Bryant’s death on a cross-country flight back to LA. “I think it was necessary for us to come together and just thank the man above.

“Although we occasionally question him and ask why he does some of the things he does, you know he never made a mistake. And hope he has his hands on it [Bryant’s wife] Vanessa and the children at the time, and hope that he will continue to watch over us. So I don’t know, it wasn’t something I was thinking about. It was something that just came to me and I said my piece.

Details emerged from the Lakers’ flight home from Bryant’s native Philadelphia in the morning of January 26, when players began to hear of the fatal accident.

Los Angeles Lakers ahead LeBron James responds during the national anthem after a pre-game tribute to Kobe Bryant before playing the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on January 31

Los Angeles Lakers ahead LeBron James responds during the national anthem after a pre-game tribute to Kobe Bryant before playing the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on January 31

The Lakers team plane pictured after arriving in Los Angeles on January 26 from Philadelphia - the day that Kobe Bryant died in a tragic helicopter accident

The Lakers team plane pictured after arriving in Los Angeles on January 26 from Philadelphia - the day that Kobe Bryant died in a tragic helicopter accident

Lakers players hug each other after they step out of a team flight from Philadelphia and have been informed that Bryant died in a helicopter accident

Lakers players hug each other after they step out of a team flight from Philadelphia and have been informed that Bryant died in a helicopter accident

The Lakers players hug each other after hearing that Kobe Bryant died on January 26

Lebron James and Quinn Cook cry at the Los Angeles Lakers pregame ceremony in honor of Kobe Bryant for the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on January 31

Lebron James and Quinn Cook cry at the Los Angeles Lakers pregame ceremony in honor of Kobe Bryant for the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on January 31

Lebron James and Quinn Cook cry at the Los Angeles Lakers pregame ceremony in honor of Kobe Bryant for the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on January 31

Bryant had not played for the Lakers since his 60-point farewell performance in 2016, and his only former teammate in the current team, Dwight Howard, was seven years away from playing briefly with the man named “Black Mamba” during a earlier stint in Los Angeles.

Likewise, Bryant had not worked with Lakers coach Frank Vogel or any of his assistants, such as NBA legend Jason Kidd or Lionel Hollins, himself a former head coach in Memphis and Brooklyn.

But although he had minimal professional experience with the current incarnation of the Lakers, Bryant’s memory consumes the team flight.

Initially, players and coaches were unbelievers.

“There was that awkward time with the feeling:” This is a crazy report, “Vogel told ESPN. “Like,” This is not true. There is no way.’ My expectation was to hear that it was a false report. “

LeBron James honored Kobe Bryant by writing “Mamba 4 Life” on his sneakers after the crash

Power ahead Anthony Davis was watching a movie when Howard approached him.

“Dwight tells me,” Man, Kobe died, “said Davis. “And I think as invincible as Kobe is Bryant, I love” Kobe who? “Because I am like that, it is not – it is not Kobe Bryant.

“And he was like” Kobe. ” And I thought, “OK. Kobe who? I’m not sure who you’re talking about.” And he said, “Kobe Bryant.” And right now Bron is still sleeping. So I thought, “Wait, what? How? I need details like, tell me.” And he said, “Man, helicopter crash.”

Davis immediately turned to wake up James, an old friend and former Olympic teammate of Bryant’s: “And I just enjoy shaking Bron, such as:” Wake up! Waking!”

“I remember that the first thing Bron said to me was,” Man, stop playing, stop playing with me, “Davis continued. ‘And I try to get on the internet. And Dwight, like, you can see him cry. He said, “It’s true.”

One by one, players log in to the aircraft’s Wi-Fi network to hear that Bryant’s helicopter had crashed that morning in Southern California.

“By that time, all players have woken up,” said Davis. ‘Everyone is trying to get on the internet to get on the phone and see what’s going on. “Is it true?” Or: “What’s wrong?”

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant won a few gold medals at Team USA

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant won a few gold medals at Team USA

LeBron James and Kobe Bryant won a few gold medals at Team USA

The current Lakers center Dwight Howard played with Bryant during an earlier stint in LA

The current Lakers center Dwight Howard played with Bryant during an earlier stint in LA

The current Lakers center Dwight Howard played with Bryant during an earlier stint in LA

Vogel took it upon himself to inform those who were not aware of the tragedy and went up and down the bad news.

Many had already heard the news, but it was Vogel’s unfortunate duty to confirm it.

“Everyone was crying,” Davis told ESPN. “It was something we didn’t believe, something that shocked us all. Because Kobe has touched so much, you know – players in this team, employees. You know, Judy [Seto], his trainer; [Lakers general manager] To rob [Pelinka was his] agent; Robert Lara, security. He has touched so many people. “

The plane then fell into what a passenger described ESPN as a “suffocating silence” before landing in Los Angeles, where emotionally exhausted players were seen staggering from the plane.

James himself seemed to cry when he set off the asphalt.

As Anthony Davis told ESPN, there was an urgency to get off the plane and see loved ones

As Anthony Davis told ESPN, there was an urgency to get off the plane and see loved ones

As Anthony Davis told ESPN, there was an urgency to get off the plane and see loved ones

“We were like that, we just have to get off this plane,” Davis told ESPN. “We just want to get off the plane. And be with your family and you know, just go back home. “

Although James refused to say if he was attending Monday’s memorial service at Staples Center (he was not photographed during the event), James made a heartfelt speech for the first Lakers game in their home arena on January 31.

“Kobe is a brother to me,” James said to the crowd, while he and his teammates wore Lakers jerseys, adorned with Bryant’s two jersey numbers, 8 and 24. “From the moment I watched him from afar in high school, to do this at the age of 18 and watch him up close, all the battles we had during my career, the only thing we always shared, was that determination to just want to win, just to be great.

“The fact that I am here now means so much to me. Together with my teammates, I want to continue his legacy. Not just for this year, but as long as we can play this basketball game that we love, because that is what Kobe Bryant would like. So in the words of Kobe Bryant, Mamba out. But in the words of us, don’t forget. Live on, brother. ”

Although James refused to say whether he was attending Monday's memorial service at Staples Center (he was not photographed during the event), James made a heartfelt speech for the first Lakers game in their home arena on January 31

Although James refused to say if he was attending Monday's memorial service at Staples Center (he was not photographed during the event), James returned a heartfelt speech for the first Lakers game in their home arena on January 31

Although James refused to say whether he was attending Monday’s memorial service at Staples Center (he was not photographed during the event), James made a heartfelt speech for the first Lakers game in their home arena on January 31

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