LeBron James has spoken about his continuing grief over the death of Kobe Bryant last month.
A memorial service was held for James’s fellow LA Laker at the Staples Center on Monday. Former NBA stars Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal spoke at the event, although it is unclear whether James, who has spoken previously of the emotional toll of his close friend’s death, was in attendance. Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in January along with eight others, including his daughter Gianna.
“Emotionally a wreck, like everyone else,” James said on Tuesday when he was asked about how he was coping with Bryant’s death. “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.”
Bryant and James played together for Team USA at the Olympics. James has already described the time after Bryant’s death as “the toughest week of my life”. He was asked on Tuesday if this week’s memorial service could allow the Lakers to move on from Bryant’s death as the end of the regular season approaches.
“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.”
Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, gave a moving speech at Monday’s ceremony. James was quick to pay tribute to her.
“One thing I can come out of it saying is how strong and how bold and how powerful Vanessa is,” he said. “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.”
Some have asked whether it is fair to force players such as James to speak about their grief in public. On Monday, James seemed uncomfortable with some of the questioning. “I respect your question, for sure, but it’s very emotional,” he told reporters. “A very emotional day. A very tough day for myself, for my family, for everyone involved,” he said.