- Lakers and NBA reporter for ESPN.
- Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for ESPN.com and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — A day after Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were honored with a “celebration of life” at Staples Center, LeBron James said his nerves are still raw.
“Emotionally a wreck, like everyone else,” James said after shootaround Tuesday morning in preparation for a game against the New Orleans Pelicans. “Another challenging day for all of us. Like you’ve been hearing me talk about the last couple times you guys asked me about the whole situation, it’s just been hard to kind of talk about it. Trying not to go back. It’s just tough.”
It was unclear if James was also in attendance at the ceremony, which took place nearly one month after Bryant and Gianna were among nine people to die in a helicopter crash. James’ agent, Rich Paul, told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that it was an emotional day for James and that he spent the memorial “in his own space.” Despite prompting, Paul did not clarify whether or not James was in the building.
When James was asked directly about his whereabouts on Tuesday, he turned his focus toward Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, and her words of remembrance for her late family members.
“I respect your question, for sure, but it’s very emotional. A very emotional day. A very tough day for myself, for my family, for everyone involved,” James said. “One thing I can come out of it saying is how strong and how bold and how powerful Vanessa is. To stand up there the way she did, to give that speech the way she gave that speech. I commend her.
“My heart his with their family still. With his three daughters that are still here. With his wife. With his mom and dad and his sisters. It was just a very difficult day. Obviously a celebration, but it was a difficult day for all of us. So I appreciate it. If we could move on to tonight, that would be great.”
James was asked if the celebration could provide some closure for a Los Angeles Lakers team that has 27 regular-season games remaining until the franchise makes its return to the postseason for the first time in six years.
“It’s never a closure. It’s never going to be a closure,” James said. “I mean, we continue to live on his legacy and continue to have our hearts heavy with both sadness and with happiness for his family that are still here. So it’s not a closure. But it was a celebration which was well received from not only the Laker faithful, not only the family here, but everybody around the world.”
In the aftermath of Bryant’s death, James told ESPN it was the “toughest week of my life.” James struck a similar chord when asked about the ceremony following the Lakers’ win over the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
“I don’t want to keep going back on it,” James said at the time. “I think it’s unfair and it’s unjust to his family, as they’re trying to move on. We’re all trying to move on — but also know that he’s with us. His jersey is sitting in my locker right now. But it just puts me in a difficult mindset when I continue to harp on it. … I’m trying to [stop], if you can respect that.”
Still, James allowed follow-up questions on Tuesday for further thoughts on the ceremony.
He said that hearing Michael Jordan elaborate on the special dynamic between him and Bryant did not surprise him.
“It’s well documented how their relationship was,” James said. “Mike is always looked at as like big brother to Kobe from the beginning. We’ve all seen that from the first time that they played in Chicago. … So we all know that.”
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