LeBron James was seen crying on video after returning to Los Angeles and learning that Kobe Bryant died in a tragic crash that killed all nine passengers aboard the former NBA player's helicopter on Sunday.
Video cameras captured the heartbreaking moment the Los Angeles Lakers deplaned in California after playing the Philadelphia 76ers the same day of Mr Bryant’s passing.
The basketball star was with his daughter, Gianna, and seven other passengers when the helicopter crashed amid foggy conditions. It was not immediately clear what caused the deadly crash.
Mr James, a 35-year-old basketball player who is often regarded as one of the best players in the history of the league, can be see wiping his eyes and hugging fellow teammates on the airport tarmac.
He then walks away from the group, seemingly holding tissue paper which he uses to dry his tears.
The two basketball greats admired each other on and off the court, with the late Bryant congratulating James for passing him on the scoring list with his final message on Twitter.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant tweeted days before his death, tagging James. “Much respect my brother #33644.”
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant)January 26, 2020
James celebrated Bryant’s career over the weekend after it was reported he had surpassed the former Lakers player, telling reporters: “Seeing him from afar, and then being able to be in practices with him, and me watching and learning — it’s just too much. The story is just too much. It doesn’t make sense.”
“Just to make a long story short,” he continued, “now I’m here in a Lakers uniform in Philadelphia, where he’s from, where the first time I ever met him he gave me his shoes, it’s just surreal.”
Reports have emerged of extremely foggy conditions at the time of the crash, though it was not clear what caused the fatal incident.
A local police spokesperson told CBS News the fog “was enough that we were not flying” at the time of the crash.
Tributes have since poured in across the globe as fans remembered the iconic 41-year-old, whose 20-year career with the Lakers propelled him to international stardom and ultimately transcended basketball.
Though Bryant and James never played on the Lakers at the same time, both are often regarded as some of the best players in the league’s history.