The Los Angeles Lakers capped one of the most heartwrenching weeks in recent memory in the sports world by paying homage to Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others who lost their lives in last weekend’s tragic helicopter crash.
The Lakers returned to the court on Friday night to play their first game since last Sunday’s stunning tragedy.
Prior to the game, the Lakers honored their fallen legend with an emotional tribute ceremony that featured musical performances from Usher and cellist Ben Hong.
Chants of KOBE, GIGI and M-V-P echoed throughout the Staples Center, otherwise known as “The House That Kobe Built.”
The arena then fell silent, as a 24.2-second moment of silence was observed.
To wrap the ceremony, LeBron James took the microphone and delivered an emotional tribute to his friend. “So in the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba Out,’ but in the words of us, ‘Not forgotten.’ Live on, brother,” concluded James.
Each Lakers’ starter was introduced by the public address announcer to the tune of Bryant’s introduction: “A 6-6 guard from Lower Merion High School in his 20th season, No. 24, Kobe Bryant.”
Earlier in the day, each seat in the arena was covered with a Bryant No. 8 or No. 24 shirt that fans will be able to keep.
The Lakers took the floor for warmups before Friday’s game wearing Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys.
Bryant’s former team also unveiled a special “KB” patch that they will wear on their jersey for the remainder of the season. The emblem will also be featured on the court at the Staples Center.
On Friday afternoon, it was announced that the upcoming 2020 NBA All-Star game will pay tribute to Kobe, his daughter and the seven other victims of the deadly accident. LeBron James’ team will all wear No. 2 (Gianna’s jersey number) and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team will wear Kobe’s No. 24 on their backs. Both teams will also wear patches with nine stars, representing those who lost their lives in the crash.
Lakers Take Court for First Time Since Kobe’s Tragic Death
The Lakers host the Blazers on Friday night in what will be their first game since the tragedy that shook the sports world to its core last weekend.
Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people (John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan) were killed in a tragic helicopter crash last Sunday in Calabasas, Calif. They were en route to a basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks.
The Lakers’ game against the Los Angeles Clippers this past Tuesday was postponed out of respect for the organization as they grieved the tremendous loss of Bryant, his daughter and the seven others that were aboard the helicopter.
Outside of a few social media posts, the Lakers stayed quiet and out of the limelight this week as they continue to mourn the loss of their legend alongside the city of Los Angeles and adoring fans who idolized the “Black Mamba” from around the world.
The beautiful nature of sports to bring people together and lift them up during times of tragedy will be on full display Friday night as the Lakers return to the court.
“I think it’s therapeutic. Anytime you can get out and take your mind off something like this, there is no doubt it will be therapeutic and help with the process of us moving forward,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters on Wednesday when the team held their first practice.
Bryant Congratulated James for Passing Him in Final Social Media Post
On the eve of the tragic events that transpired last weekend, James passed Bryant for third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list on Saturday in Philadelphia against the 76ers.
Bryant congratulated James on the achievement in what would turn out to be his final social media post, tweeting “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644.” The gracious legend followed that up with a call to James following the game, according to The Athletic and the LA Times.
James was overwhelmed after passing Bryant’s mark on Saturday, saying “It doesn’t make sense. Just to make a long story short, now I’m here in a Lakers uniform, in Philadelphia, where he’s from. The first time I ever met him, gave me his shoes on All-Star Weekend. It’s surreal. It doesn’t make no sense, but the universe just puts things in your life.
“And I guess when you live in the right way, when you just give it everything to whatever you’re doing, things happen organically. And it’s not supposed to make sense, but it just happens.
“And I’m happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers. The man has two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It’s just crazy.”