'I just can't': NBA coach breaks down after question about Kobe Bryant

Riley Morgan
Sports Reporter

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers was fighting back tears during a pre-game conference when talking about the death of LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter have been killed in a helicopter crash in California.

‘DEVASTATING’: NBA legend Kobe Bryant and daughter killed in tragic helicopter crash

As first reported by TMZ, five people including Bryant were killed on Sunday after his private helicopter went down in Calabasas, about 65 kilometres northwest of Los Angeles.

Rivers was asked about Bryant’s death ahead of the Clippers’ match against the Orlando Magic and was fighting back tears in the press conference.

Head coach Doc Rivers of the LA Clippers addresses the media after former NBA player Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash prior to the game against the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

“I don’t know,” he started.

“I just don’t have a lot to say. The news is just devastating to everybody that knew him.

“And he means a lot to me obviously, he was such a great opponent. It’s what you want in sports. He had that DNA that very few athletes can ever have. The Tiger Woods and the Michael Jordan’s.

“It’s funny I was getting to know him more since he retired.

“This is a tough one. We have to go play.”

“Sorry I don’t have a lot to say,” Rivers added as he choked back tears.

“I just can’t. I have to go talk to a team and tell them to play. And I can’t.”

Sunday’s game between the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs went on as scheduled despite the league-wide mourning, and the players involved found a way to honour the memory of Bryant after the opening tip.

TRIBUTES FLOW: Sporting world and Hollywood rocked by Kobe's death

Following a moment of silence from the arena presentation, players from both teams stood still and allowed the 24-second shot clock expire on their opening possessions after the tip-off, a nod to Bryant’s number 24 jersey.

Bryant’s career

Bryant had one of the greatest careers in recent NBA history and became one of the game’s most popular players as the face of the Lakers franchise. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion.

During one of the most memorable championship runs in the NBA, Bryant teamed up with centre Shaquille O’Neal to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002.