LeBron James Pays Tribute To Kobe Bryant With Emotional Eulogy At Lakers Game
‘Laker nation, man, I will be selling you short if I read off this sh*t, so I’m going to go straight from the heart.’
Following the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, as well as seven others, in a freak helicopter crash on January 26, millions of tributes have poured in from all across the world.
On Friday, January 31, the Los Angeles Lakers played the Portland Trail Blazers in their first game since the loss of Bryant. They may have lost, but the evening was more about paying tribute to their fallen icon.
Before the game began, LeBron James gave a heartfelt speech honouring his friend, which you can watch below:
The 35-year-old recently got a tattoo inspired by the late legend’s career: a black mamba snake with ‘Mamba 4 life’, after Bryant’s self-dubbed nickname.
James spoke about how he wanted the ceremony to be a celebration of the wide, illustrious life and career of Bryant, through the ‘blood, sweat and tears’.
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 dad we’ve seen over the last three years.
There were a number of poignant tributes to the player on the night: R&B group Boyz II Men sang the national anthem before the game, as well as 20,000 jerseys with Bryant’s number being laid out on the seats of the Staples Center in LA, with two empty courtside seats reserved for Bryant and Gianna.
Vanessa Bryant, the late player’s wife, posted an image of the seats to Instagram:
A six-minute tribute video was also put together and played before the game, which you can watch below:
In another touching move, each of the Lakers’ players were introduced not as themselves, but as Bryant. For each player, PA announcer Lawrence Tanter said: ‘6-6, 20th year out of Lower Merion High School, Kobe Bryant.’
Other high-profile artists made appearances in honour of the icon, with Usher singing Amazing Grace, as well as Charlie Puth and rapper Wiz Khalifa performing See You Again at halftime.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.