BBC Apologizes For Airing LeBron James Footage During Report On Kobe Bryant Death

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This past weekend rocked the worlds of sport, entertainment and pop culture, as former NBA great Kobe Bryant and eight others were killed in a horrific helicopter crash in the mountains in Calabasas, California. To be expected, news outlets everywhere were covering the news updates as they came from local authorities, and because the fatal accident was so unexpected, many of those outlets were scrambling to pull segments together. Unfortunately, the BBC didn't utilize the most stringent editing process, and erroneously used footage of current NBA superstar LeBron James instead of Bryant.

You can check out a clip from the news segment below, in which an image of Kobe Bryant and his daughter is followed by footage of LeBron James as part of the Los Angeles Lakers.

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As evidenced by the tweet above, quite a few people out there were more than a little irate at the BBC for such a major foul-up involving two of the most popular and celebrated basketball players on the planet. (To say nothing of the fact that LeBron James only got traded to the Lakers in 2018, two years after Kobe Bryant retired from the sport.) Even if the person editing the video segment had never seen either Bryant or James' faces before, the name on the back of the jersey should have been a clue.

BBC News Editor Paul Royall took to Twitter after the segment aired to issue an apology for having shown audiences the wrong footage during the broadcast.

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That news segment also ended with the on-air newsreader Reeta Chakrabarti offering up a very similar-sounding apology:

In our coverage of the death of Kobe Bryant, in one section of the report, we mistakenly showed pictures of another basketball player, LeBron James. We do apologize for the error.

Both Paul Royall and Reeta Chakrabarti refer to the LeBron James video clips as "pictures," too, which isn't exactly correct. Clearly it wasn't the biggest flub of the day, however.

Twitter was awash with various criticisms aimed at BBC News, with latent racism being a common theme across many tweets. Several users brought up other recent mistakes that BBC journalists have made on the air, and the following reply to Paul Royall sums up what a lot of people were feeling. (And does so in a safe-for-work way.)

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The BBC wasn't the only news network dealing with racially fueled blowback over a Kobe Bryant report. Elsewhere, at MSNBC, anchor Alison Morris was reporting on the Oscar-winning athlete's death during a live report and got her tongue tied while saying "Los Angeles Lakers."

Many viewers believed that Morris uttered a racial slur during the segment, calling them the "Los Angeles N-----s," but the anchor took to Twitter to explain that she accidentally combined the names of the Knicks and the Lakers and said "Nakers," though others weren't weren't exactly embracing that excuse.

From Steve Harvey's infamous Miss Universe blunder to John Travolta's epic mangling of Idina Menzel's name, people have been making embarrassing misidentifications during live TV broadcasts for years. However, getting a name wrong in a split-second (so long as it isn't an accidental racial epithet) is an entirely different error than airing several seconds of the wrong footage.

We at CinemaBlend send our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Kobe Bryant in their time of mourning.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.