The NBA has postponed the Los Angeles Lakers’ next game against the Clippers on Tuesday night after the deaths of retired superstar Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash.
The league announced the decision in a statement Monday, saying it “was made out of respect for the Lakers organization.”
Bryant’s helicopter crashed Sunday, and the Lakers learned about it while flying home from an East Coast road trip. LeBron James and several other players appeared to be visibly affected by the news when they got off the plane.
“The Los Angeles Lakers would like to thank all of you for the tremendous outpouring of support and condolences,” the Lakers organization said in a statement after the postponement was announced. “This is a very difficult time for all of us.”
The 16-time NBA champion franchise made grief counsellors available to employees Monday after the loss of Bryant, who spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers.
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss was quite close to Bryant, and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka was Bryant’s agent during his playing career.
Dwight Howard is the only current Lakers player who played with Bryant for the franchise for one season back in 2012-13, but the players all knew him. James and Bryant teamed up on the U.S. Olympic teams in 2008 and 2012, and Anthony Davis played a backup role on that 2012 London Olympics team.
Bryant had attended a handful of Lakers games in recent years with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who also died in the crash in Calabasas, California.
The NBA says the game between the Los Angeles rivals will be rescheduled later.
The next game on the Lakers’ schedule is Friday night at home against Portland.
The Lakers lead the Western Conference standings and have the NBA’s second-best record at 36-10. After trading for Davis and teaming him with James in the off-season, the Lakers are all but certain to end their franchise-record playoff drought at six seasons.
Bryant won five championships and reached seven NBA Finals during his two decades with the Lakers. He retired as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, and he held the mark until James passed him on Saturday night in Philadelphia.