LeBron James pays tribute at first LA Lakers game since death of Kobe Bryant

Danny Thompson
Contributor
Los Angeles Lakers player LeBron James speaks from center court in honour of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, after he was killed last weekend in a helicopter accident, ahead of a game between Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on January 31, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

There were emotional scenes at Staples Centre Friday night as LeBron James and a host of stars paid tribute to Kobe Bryant at the first LA Lakers game since his tragic death.

A visibly upset James spoke “from the heart” regarding close friend Bryant, who died alongside daughter Gianna and seven others in a tragic helicopter crash last weekend.

Stars such as Usher and Boyz II Men also appeared and dedicated performances to the basketball legend.

Appearing on court before the game began, James began by reading the the names of those who died in the accident; Bryant’s daughter Gianna (“Gigi”), John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and Peyton Chester and Ara Zobayan.

He then said: "I've gotten something written down,” before he preceded to scrap his written words and "go straight from the heart".

Read more: Lakers fan Jack Nicholson pays tribute to 'so talented' Kobe Bryant in rare interview

He continued: "The first thing that comes to mind is all about family. And as I look around this arena, we're all grieving, we're all hurt, we're all heartbroken. When we're going through things like this the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family."

"I heard about Lakers Nation before I got here... about how much of a family it is, and that is absolutely what I've seen this whole week.

"Not only from the players, not only from the coaching staff, not only from the organisation but from everybody. Everybody that's here… This is really, truly a family. And I know Kobe and Gianna [Bryant] and Vanessa [Bryant] thank you from the bottom of their heart."

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 31: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks during the Los Angeles Lakers pregame ceremony to honor Kobe Bryant before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on January 31, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)


Standing next to bouquets of flowers shaped in Bryant’s jersey numbers, 8 and 24, he added: "I know at some point we will have a memorial for Kobe but I look at this as a celebration tonight.

"This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, sweat, tears, the broken down body, the getting up, the sitting down, the countless hours, the determination to be as great as he could be.

Read more: Kobe Bryant fan starts petition to honor NBA legend as logo

"Tonight we celebrate the kid who came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and become the best dad that we've seen over the last three years. Tonight is a celebration."

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and teammates look on during the pregame ceremony to honor Kobe Bryant before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on January 31, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

James then finished: "In the words of Kobe Bryant, Mamba out. But in the words of us, not forgotten. Live on, brother."

A known music fan, Bryant’s memory was also marked by Usher singing Amazing Grace and Boyz II Men harmonising the Star-Spangled banner.

Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, then performed a touching rendition of See You Again at half time.