Lakers Return to Practice for 1st Time Since Kobe Bryant’s Death

Back to work. The Los Angeles Lakers returned to practice with the Mamba Mentality on Wednesday, January 29, as they continue to grieve Kobe Bryant‘s tragic death.

“We want to represent what Kobe was about, more than anything,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “We’ve always wanted to make him proud, and that’s not going to be any different now.”

Bryant died along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday, January 26. He was 41. The late Los Angeles Lakers player retired in 2016 after leading the team to five NBA champions during his 20-year career.

Vogel, 46, added, “We’ve become a family in a very short time. It’s something that we talk about in the NBA with your teams, but this group, in particular, has really grown to love each other very rapidly, and we understand the importance and the opportunity we have this year. This has just brought us closer together.”

The team is preparing for their next game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, January 31, at Staples Center — their first game since Bryant’s death. The NBA postponed the Lakers’ game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, January 28.

“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,” the organization explained in a press release on Monday, January 27.

Kobe Bryant, left, gestures to teammates as Boston Celtics guard Terrence Williams defends during the second half of their game in 2013. Mark J Terrill/AP/Shutterstock

Bryant’s death has weighed heavily on members of the Lakers including LeBron James, who eulogized Bryant in an emotional Instagram post on Monday.

“I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I [sic] sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had!” James, 35, penned. “I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning 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. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! 😢😢😢😢💔.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also remembered Bryant in a statement following his death. “For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,” he wrote. “He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary … But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.”

The NBA’s chairman Jerry Colangelo announced on Monday that Bryant’s legacy will be officially honored by the NBA when he is inducted into the Naismith Basketball of Fame’s Class of 2020. 

Bryant was married to Vanessa Laine Bryant, who broke her silence on the death of her husband and daughter on Wednesday.

“We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri,” Vanessa, 37, wrote.

Kobe and Vanessa, who married in April 2001, shared daughters Natalia, 17, Gianna, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.

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