Jan 29, 2020, 5:00 am SGT
LOS ANGELES • National Basketball Association (NBA) star LeBron James said on Monday night he was “heartbroken and devastated” over the death of Kobe Bryant, vowing in an Instagram post to continue his legacy with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion with the Lakers before retiring in 2016, died on Sunday at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash, just hours after James overtook him for third on the league’s all-time scoring list.
“I literally just heard your voice before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have,” the three-time NBA champion said.
“I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother. Man I love you big bro. You mean so much to us all, especially #LakerNation and it’s my responsibility to put this on my back and keep it going… I got us here.”
The Lakers, who have missed the play-offs for the last six seasons, are leading the Western Conference. The title favourites last lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2010, when Bryant was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.
While the last night’s Lakers meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers was postponed, Monday’s games carried on in a sombre mood.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr revealed he had been blindsided by New Jersey Nets guard Drazen Petrovic’s demise following a car accident in 1993 and when Lakers great Magic Johnson announced he had HIV in 1991. But nothing could prepare him for the “saddest day” in NBA history.
In Detroit, Pistons players only wore jerseys emblazoned with 8 and 24, Bryant’s numbers. Their 115-100 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers also began with both teams exchanging 24-second shot-clock violations or eight-second violations for not advancing the ball
In Minneapolis, the Timberwolves put a different spin on the idea after winning the tip-off against the Kings. Andrew Wiggins placed the ball on the free-throw line, where Bryant sank two baskets on Dec 14, 2014 to move past Michael Jordan and become the NBA’s third-highest scorer.
Heartache over the former star’s death tempered the joy of victory for hosts Chicago Bulls as they beat the San Antonio Spurs 110-109.
“There will never be another Kobe,” Bulls guard Zach LaVine said. “He made an impact on people off the court and in basketball. We all wanted to be like Kobe.”
Chris Paul was unable to take the court as the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Thunder 107-97 as he was in mourning.
BRINGING BACK THE GOOD OLD DAYS
You mean so much to us all, especially #LakerNation and it’s my responsibility to put this on my back and keep it going… I got us here.
LEBRON JAMES, Lakers star, promising to make the storied franchise a force again.
A social media campaign to use Bryant’s likeness as the new NBA logo has since gone viral, with more than a million people backing the petition on Change.org. The current logo features the silhouette of Lakers great Jerry West.
Former Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce told TMZ he was not only down “with that”, but also urged the NBA to “retire his number in every arena”.
Yesterday, best-selling Brazilian author Paulo Coelho said he had deleted the draft of a children’s book he had been working on with Bryant as it had now “lost its reason” although fans pleaded with him to finish it as a tribute.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN