LeBron James Paid Tribute to Late NBA Star

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LeBron James Paid Tribute to Late NBA Star

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The Los Angeles Lakers played their first game since the death of Kobe Bryant on Friday night, and the Staples Center was filled with commemorations of the late Lakers legend, including an emotional speech from current star player LeBron James.

“This is a celebration of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken down body, the getting up, everything, the countless hours,” said James during a pregame ceremony honoring Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the seven other victims of Sunday’s Calabasas helicopter crash. “The determination to be a great as he could be.”

“The first thing that comes to mind is all about family. And as I look around this arena, we’re all grieving, we’re all hurt, 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,” he said.

The 41-year-old Bryant and his daughter were en route to a youth basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy with baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, and mother and daughter Sarah and Payton, Mamba Academy coach Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan, when their helicopter crashed Sunday. All three of the children on board were just 13 years old.

During the ceremony, Usher sang “Amazing Grace,” while Boyz II Men performed the national anthem. Los Angeles Philharmonic cellist Ben Hong played an arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” while a tribute video featuring highlights from Bryant’s 20-year career with the team played in the arena.

At the night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, which the Lakers lost 127-119, two court side seats bearing Bryant and Gianna’s jerseys were kept empty and covered in roses. CNN noted that they were likely the only two open seats in the 19,000-person arena.

Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.

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