The Los Angeles Lakers returned to the hardfloor again for the first time since the passing of franchise legend Kobe Bryant. Prior to the game against the Portland Trailblazers, the organization planned a tribute that consisted of music performances and ultimately a speech from team star, LeBron James.
It was an emotional night and James started his tribute by honoring all those who died in the tragic helicopter crash that took Bryant and his daughter Gianna’s life along with John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan, Sarah Chester and Payton Chester.
James, who had a speech written down at the request of the organization, put down the piece of paper and chose to speak from the heart instead. He was emotional but very thankful for the opportunity. Below is the complete transcript of James’ tribute:
The first thing that comes to mind is all about family. As I look all around this arena, we’re all grieving, we’re all hurting, we’re all heartbroken. But when we’re going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family and from Sunday morning all the way until the point – I had heard about Laker Nation before I got here last year about how much of a family it is – and that is absolutely what I’ve seen this whole week.
Not only from the players, not only from the coaching staff, not only from the organization but from everybody. Everybody that’s here is, this really, truly, truly a family, and I know Kobe and Gianna and Vanessa and everybody thank you guys from the bottom of their hearts as Kobe said.
Now, I know at some point we will have a memorial for Kobe. 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 dad we’ve seen over the last three years.
Tonight is a celebration. Before we get to play – love you all man – Kobe’s a brother to me. From the time I was in high school and watching him from afar to getting in this league at 18 watching him up close, all the battles we had throughout my career, the one thing that we always shared is that determination to just want to win and just want to be great, and the fact that I’m here now means so much to me.
I want to continue along with my teammates to continue his legacy not only for this year but for as long as we can play the game of basketball that we love because that’s what Kobe Bryant would want. So in the words of Kobe Bryant, Mamba out. But in the words of us, not forgotten. Live on brother.
Visibly overcome with emotion, James walked to his teammates and was hugged and thanked. As for the tributes, fans in attendance all received free Kobe Bryant T-Shirts printed either with his iconic #8 and #24 jersey numbers. The floor was also re-designed to show the initials “KB” and the numbers as well. Music performances last night included Usher singing “Amazing Grace” and Boyz II Men performing the National Anthem. Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth also performed “See You Again” in remembrance of Kobe Bryant.