LA Lakers Remember Kobe Bryant and Gianna With Emotional Tributes

Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Tribute. (Credit: Twitter/Mayor Eric Garcetti)

The Los Angeles Lakers returned to the court Friday night for the first time since Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

Jerseys with Bryant’s No. 24 were draped over every seat, filling the Staples Center with gold. Court-side, there were two empty seats filled with red roses in honor of Kobe and his basketball-playing daughter.

Before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers got underway, the lights were dimmed and Usher
sang “Amazing Grace.” Near the end of the song, Usher added the lyrics: “I know you’re up there. She’s up there, y’all are all up there with the Lord.”

[Watch the video below]

Los Angeles Philharmonic cellist Ben Hong then took a seat in the middle of the court and began to play as a tribute video to Bryant started.

In the footage, Bryant talked about his determination to become a champion and the commitment, focus and hard work it required. “If you work hard enough, dreams come true,” he said

The five-time NBA champion also discussed his love for his family and being a dad.

“I have four girls, so my mission is to make sure women have opportunities. Our daughters will grow up understanding that they can be strong and they can be independent, they can be fierce. I just love spending
time with my family,” Bryant said as the video showed him embracing Gianna.

[Watch the video below]

After 24.2 seconds of silence in honor of the nine lives lost on Sunday, Boyz II Men performed the national anthem. With emotions running high, some of the NBA players on the court embraced as the R&B group sang.

Moments later, LeBron James read the names of the nine victims of the crash as he choked back tears.

James had a written statement but said, “Laker Nation I would be selling y’all short if I read off this sh-t, so I’m gonna go straight from the heart.”

Wearing a No. 24 jersey, he praised the fans in the stadium and said “this is truly a family.”

“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,” James said about Bryant. “Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age. Retired at 38 and became probably the best dad that we’ve seen over the last three years.”

The screens inside the arena showed the thousands of fans gathered outside Staples Center to honor Bryant. They brought candles, flowers, teddy bears and stopped to sign large white boards to express their condolences to the families of those who died.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said the city is planning a public memorial to Bryant and the others killed in Sunday’s helicopter crash.