For the first time since the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and eight others in a helicopter crash on Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers took the floor to play a basketball game on Friday evening. But before things tipped off against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers organization paid tribute to one of the greatest players in franchise history.
Things started off with Usher standing at center court and giving a stirring performance of “Amazing Grace.” While he sang, clips of those who both mourned Bryant’s passing and paid tribute to him in recent days.
Once he finished, cellist Ben Hong of the Los Angeles Philharmonic took Usher’s spot and began playing “Hallelujah.” This happened while the team’s tribute video to Bryant aired, one that highlighted what No. 8/24 did on and off the court and highlighted his impact on the Lakers organization. It is 6:25, and you will have chills for all of it.
Boyz II Men came out to sing the national anthem, which moved a handful of Lakers players, including LeBron James, to tears.
And to cap things off, James took the mic, and after discarding of some prepared remarks in a way that brought some levity to a serious situation, he gave a moving speech that ended with a poignant reminder that no one in L.A. will ever forget the future Hall of Fame inductee.
“So in the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba Out,’ but in the words of us, ‘Not forgotten.’ Live on, brother.”
—LeBron James during the Lakers’ tribute to Kobe pic.twitter.com/qQTHrirN6t
— ESPN (@espn) February 1, 2020
In one last tribute to Black Mamba, every Lakers starter was introduced as “Kobe Bryant.”
While every team in the NBA did something to honor Bryant, all eyes were on how the Lakers would honor someone who became an L.A. institution over the course of his career. Somehow, after all of this came to an end, the Lakers and Blazers took to the floor and played a basketball game.