Kobe Bryant dead: LeBron James in tears as Lakers honour franchise great
LeBron James and his team-mates were in tears as the Los Angeles Lakers honoured franchise great Kobe Bryant after his tragic death.
Lakers legend Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, along with seven others in Calabasas, California.
Preparing to face the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, the team's first appearance since the tragedy after Tuesday's showdown with the Los Angeles Clippers was postponed, the Lakers paid tribute to Bryant in an emotional pre-game ceremony.
Staples Center was a sea of yellow – every seat draped with Bryant T-shirts – while two courtside seats were left empty for Kobe and his daughter Gianna, their respective jerseys adorned by roses.
There was also a KB badge – Bryant's initials – imprinted outside the playing area.
Popular R&B singer Usher delivered a heartfelt rendition of 'Amazing Grace' before an emotional tribute video was played on the big screen inside the arena.
Afterwards, a 24.2 second moment of silence was taken to honour all nine victims before Boyz II Men performed the United States national anthem as Lakers superstar James and Anthony Davis were among those to break down in tears.
James, who surpassed Bryant for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list on Saturday, then took the microphone and gave a heartfelt speech.
"Laker nation," he said, "I would be selling y'all short if I read off this [sheet of paper], so I'm going to go straight from the heart.
"I know we're going to have a memorial for Kobe at some point. But I look at this as a celebration tonight. This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body, the getting up, the sitting down, the everything, the countless hours, the determination to be as great as he could be.
"Tonight, we celebrate the kid who came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best daddy we've seen over the last three years, man."
"Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we've seen over the last three years.” pic.twitter.com/0sS7e91cuz— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 1, 2020
"Kobe was like a brother to me," James added. "… I want to continue, along with my team-mates, to continue his legacy, not only for this year, but as long as we can play the game of basketball that we love because that's what Kobe Bryant would want."
James finished by saying: "In the words of Kobe Bryant, Mamba out. But in the words of us, not forgotten. Live on, brother."Published 01 Feb 2020, 09:58 IST