The basketball world is mourning the loss of the wife of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, and the league’s biggest star shared an emotional reaction to the sad news just moments after Wednesday night’s game.
After cementing the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first victory against the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of the NBA Playoffs—in a monster game where he posted 46 points—LeBron James met with TNT reporter Allie LaForce and responded to the death of Popovich’s wife, Erin.
“Obviously, I’m a huge Pop fan. I love Pop,” James, 33, told LaForce, referring to Gregg Popovich by the nickname “Pop” for short. “That’s such a tragedy. My best wishes go out to Pop and his family. That’s devastating news. It’s a lot.”
As James spoke, he struggled to hold back his emotions, sometimes pausing to find his words.
LeBron James after the game finding out about the horrible news of Erin Popovich's passing pic.twitter.com/2hz7z2ysWp— ?arcusD (@_MarcusD2_) April 19, 2018
“The NBA family, we all stick together. I know we compete every night, but when something like this happens it puts everything in perspective,” James continued. “I send my well wishes and my prayers up to the heavens above. I know the man above never makes a mistake even when you sometimes have to ask, ‘why?’ That’s just terrible news.”
He added: “Best of luck to Pop everybody in San Antonio, the whole Spurs family. That’s all I can say.”
According to Sports Illustrated, Erin and Gregg Popovich had been married for four decades. The couple had two children and two grandchildren.
While James handled the question with professionalism and candor, many people on Twitter seemed to feel it was insensitive of TNT to ask him the question on live TV.
nope. nope nope nope nope don’t ask LeBron that question.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) April 19, 2018
not a fan of them asking LeBron about Pop's wife dying before he even left the court, but Bron handled that perfectly.— maurice (@tallmaurice) April 19, 2018
Bron's tact in the face of all the hate directed his way just solidifies to me how much we don't deserve him.
that’s a terrible question to ask in that moment— Harry Lyles Jr. (@harrylylesjr) April 19, 2018
The pain on his face... come on— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) April 19, 2018
According to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, LaForce did give James prior notification that she would ask about Erin Popovich’s passing. TNT’s Ernie Johnson confirmed as much during Inside the NBA after the game.
According to a Turner Sports source, Allie LaForce gave LeBron James a heads up prior to the Popovich question.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) April 19, 2018
Update.— ?arcusD (@_MarcusD2_) April 19, 2018
LeBron was let known beforehand. pic.twitter.com/sYLm7PrKQt
While James has never played for Popovich in a Spurs uniform, the two have spoken highly of each other through the years. Recently, according to ABC News, Popovich complimented James in the days after the Cavaliers superstar was told to “shut up and dribble” by Fox News host Laura Ingraham in February.
“He hasn’t fallen off the ledge. He’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids, especially of kids of lesser opportunity who haven’t had the same advantages of others,” Popovich, 69, said of James and his admiration for his activism. “I love the guy… He’s always been a team guy and hopefully, I’m the same way.”
Popovich has been the head coach of the Spurs for more than two decades. Popovich and the team are currently facing the reigning NBA champs, the Golden State Warriors, in the playoffs, and will meet in Game 3 on Thursday.
The cause of Erin Popovich’s death has not been announced.