On Jan. 29, the Los Angeles Lakers held their first practice and media availability since Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others tragically perished in a helicopter accident on Jan. 26.
“I want to start by personally and on behalf of the Lakers family, offering condolences to Vanessa Bryant and the entire Bryant family on the loss of Kobe and Gianna,” head coach Frank Vogel began.
“We are all deeply, deeply saddened by this unthinkable tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. I also want to offer condolences to the families of the other victims that were lost in this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as well.”
Externally, there have been calls for the Lakers to dedicate the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season and pursuit of a championship to Bryant’s memory. Vogel did not explicitly state as much but made it clear the five-time champion’s presence has long been felt and served as an inspiration.
“We want to represent what Kobe was about, more than anything. We’ve always wanted to make him proud,” Vogel explained. “That’s not going to be any different here.”
The game against the L.A. Clippers was postponed and the Lakers later issued a statement that thanked fans for “the tremendous outpouring of support and condolences.” It continued, “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.”
The Lakers shared more thoughts on social media, voicing their sorrow and support of Vanessa Bryant through the grieving process. The organization held a luncheon after a light workout on Jan. 28, which Vogel deemed was from the standpoint of being therapeutic.
It was during this time LeBron James is said to have stepped forward and taken on the burden and challenge of guiding the Lakers to their 17th championship in franchise history. James and Bryant spoke prior to the tragedy as they swapped places on the all-time NBA scoring list.