The news of the death of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife Erin Popovich broke during Wednesday’s playoff game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers.
It understandably cast a pall over game coverage on a night with three NBA playoff games.
While the news spread quickly, it apparently did not make its way into the Cavaliers locker room during the game. LeBron James had a big night in the Cavs’ 100-97 win over the Pacers and joined TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce for the postgame interview.
LaForce broke the sad news to James, who has a relationship with Popovich built partly over spending time together with Team USA during Olympics play. James has also played Popovich’s Spurs three times in the NBA Finals.
“Obviously I’m a huge Pop fan. I love Pop,” James said, clearly choked up. “That’s such a tragedy. My best wishes go to Pop and his family. That’s devastating news. It’s just a lot. The NBA family, we all stick together. I know we compete every night. When something like this happens, it puts everything in perspective.
“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. Best of luck to Pop, everybody in San Antonio, the whole Spurs family. That’s all I can say, Allie.”
TNT took some criticism on social media for the timing of the question. Studio host Ernie Johnson later told viewers that LaForce told James of the news before the cameras were on.
Ernie Johnson says Allie LaForce had told LeBron of Erin Popovich's death and asked him if he wanted to comment before going on-air pic.twitter.com/VBhHbuBPvJ
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) April 19, 2018
James confirmed TNT’s report with a post of his own.
— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) April 19, 2018
The Golden State Warriors, who are facing Popovich’s Spurs in a playoff series, also had a chance to respond to the news on camera. Kevin Durant was clearly shook up.
Warriors just learning about Erin Popovich’s passing. Steve Kerr understandably at a loss for words. Same with Kevin Durant pic.twitter.com/PT48FYKIOC
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 19, 2018
It’s obviously terrible news to hear about the death of someone you care about and a difficult moment to process on TV.
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