Lakers honor basketball legend Kobe Bryant in emotional pre-game ceremony

“Everybody that’s here — this is really, truly, truly a family,” LeBron James said.
lakers game kobe bryant tribute
The Los Angeles Lakers honors Kobe Bryant and Gigi Bryant before the game on Jan. 31, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.Adam Pantozzi / NBAE via Getty Images

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/ Source: TODAY
By Alexander Kacala

Before Friday's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna "Gigi" Bryant and the seven other victims of Sunday's devastating helicopter crash were honored during a pre-game ceremony at the Staples Center.

In a touching tribute, the Lakers covered two court-side seats with red roses and the jerseys of Bryant and his daughter. During warm ups, the entire team wore Bryant's jerseys displaying both of his numbers, 8 and 24.

Usher took to the court and performed an emotional rendition of "Amazing Grace."

After, Los Angeles Philharmonic cellist Ben Hong performed while a montage of interview clips and career highlights of Bryant's was shown overhead. Also included were other important milestones as well, such as being a father to four girls, a husband to his wife, Vanessa, and his Academy Award win.

After, the names of all nine victims were displayed on a black screen.

The other people who died in the crash were Ara Zobayan, 49, the pilot; Christina Mauser, 38, an assistant basketball coach at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy; John Altobelli, 56, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California; his wife, Keri Altobelli, 46; their daughter Alyssa Altobelli, 13; Payton Chester, 13, who played on the academy's basketball teams; and her mother, Sarah Chester, 45.

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“Lost in this unthinkable tragedy were husbands, wives, parents and children, teammates and coaches. As the entire world mourns, we want to remember and honor those nine individuals,” an announcement said.

Next, Boyz 2 Men sang the national anthem, which is when the Lakers' LeBron James was seen crying. Hours before the ceremony, James took to social media to reveal a new tattoo, a tribute to Bryant and his daughter Gigi.

James later read the names of all nine victims, ending with Bryant's.

Opting to speak off-the-cuff instead of using remarks he had prepared, he said, "Laker Nation, man, I would be selling you all short if I read off of this sh--, so I’m going to go straight from the heart."

“The first thing that come to mind, man, is all about family. And as I look around this arena, we’re all grieving, we’re all hurt, we’re all heartbroken,” James added. “But when we’re going through things like the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family.”

“Everybody that’s here — this is really, truly, truly a family,” James said.

James ended his emotional speech quoting the late basketball star.

"So in the words of Kobe Bryant, 'Mamba out,' but in the words of us, 'not forgotten.' Live on brother."

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