Lakers coach Frank Vogel was emotional as he addressed reporters on Wednesday, speaking out for the first time on the death of Kobe Bryant.
Bryant was a Los Angeles Laker his entire 20-year NBA career and was an icon in the Laker organization, winning five championships. Vogel said the team was obviously "deeply saddened" by his tragic death on Sunday as well as for the eight other victims in the helicopter crash, which included Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. He noted that the tragedy has brought the Lakers team closer.
"It's been a deeply saddening time for all of us," Vogel said, noting that now, the focus is on making Bryant proud. "We want to represent what Kobe was about, more than anything. We've always wanted to make him proud, and that's not going to be any different here."
Vogel said that after the NBA decided to cancel the Lakers vs. Clippers game on Tuesday out of respect for the Lakers organization, the team did have a practice and have been grieving together, doing activities that are "therapeutically beneficial." Vogel said Bryant's death has hit him especially hard, given that he is also a father to daughters. He later reflected on Bryant's legacy.
"He was the most feared man in the league for an entire generation, and the influence is profound league-wide, basketball-wide, community-wide, worldwide, Lakers family-wide and his influence will be felt forever," he noted.
No Lakers player addressed reporters at the press conference. Vogel said that they will talk when they're ready.
"The decision process is you guys can speak when you're ready and not before," he said.
The Lakers posted an emotional to Bryant and his young daughter to Twitter Wednesday evening, which included a photo of the two of them, and a link to the MambaOnThree fund, which has been set up to support the other families of those who died in the tragic crash.
We are devastated and have been forever changed by the sudden loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. We send our love to Vanessa, the Bryant family, and to the families of the other passengers.
The Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to support the families affected by this tragedy. To help, please visit https://t.co/e4Je5ORGC2. For those who are inspired to continue Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit https://t.co/KsaefpUNGf
On Monday, a source with the Lakers told ET that the organization was deeply grieving.
"We are glad the league is postponing the game," the source said. "It’s not just the players hurting. Kobe was here for two decades and is like family to everyone in the building. No one is OK."
The source added that the Lakers brought in grief counselors for employees and team players, and that the counselors will be available for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, there is still no information on a memorial or funeral for Bryant.
On Sunday, Bryant's close friend and fellow basketball icon, LeBron James -- who currently plays for the Lakers -- was seen crying as he arrived at LAX airport with other members of the team. He later took to Instagram to mourn Bryant.
"I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! ?????," he wrote. "Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation?? and it’s my responsibility to put this sh** on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life❤️?? #Gigi4Life❤️??."
"Kobe would have wanted us to carry on and be great in our lives," Johnson shared, adding that people should honor Bryant's memory by using this tragedy to motivate us to add something good to the world.
"We should do something positive. Whether it's making sure we love our family or giving back to an organization, in his name, we should do something great," Johnson explained. "Because he was such a great man, a great husband, a great father, and an incredible basketball player… He was enjoying life, and went way too early."