LeBron James capped off a touching tribute to Kobe Bryant ahead of the Lakers game on Friday night with a speech from the court, calling the remembrance of Kobe and the game a “celebration” of his life.
James, speaking while a spotlight shone on him in an otherwise dark Staples Center, said he ditched prepared remarks to speak from the heart with the Lakers “family.”
“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, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body, the getting down, sitting up, the countless hours, the determination to be as great as he could be,” James said.
“Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age. Retired at 38 and became probably the best dad you could have seen over the last three years,” he added.
“Tonight is a celebration.”
The speech was the final moment in a pre-game ceremony that featured performances by R&B group Boyz II Men and Usher.
Prior to the game, the Lakers reserved two court-side seats for Bryant and his daughter Gianna, 13, covering them in their jerseys and placing bouquets of roses on them.
When James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the Lakers squad took the court for warm ups before their match-up against the Portland Trail Blazers, they were all wearing jerseys with Bryant’s name on them.
The players either wore No. 24 and No. 8 — the two numbers Bryant wore during his career with the team.
Kobe and Gianna died in a helicopter crash last Sunday when the chopper they were flying in crashed into the side of a mountain near Calabasas, California.