LeBron James reflected on Kobe Bryant's legacy moments before tipoff of the Lakers' first game since Kobe Bryant's death.
James took the microphone at center court to conclude the team's pregame tribute to Bryant.
James spoke off the cuff, tossing aside his pre-written remarks. Before eulogizing his former teammate, he opened by acknowledging all nine of the victims of Sunday morning's accident by name.
“At some point we will have a memorial for Kobe, but I look at this as a celebration tonight,” James said. “This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body. 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.”
He concluded his heartfelt message by saying, "In the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba out.’ But in the words of us, ‘Not forgotten.’ Live on, brother.”
James' comments capped off an emotional pregame ceremony that included Usher singing "Amazing Grace," cellist Ben Hong performing "Hallelujah" as a montage of Bryant's life played on the jumbotron and Boyz II Men singing the National Anthem as Bryant's two jerseys were lit in the rafters.
Additionally, 24.2 seconds of silence were observed, honoring Bryant and his daughter.
Countless other tributes could be seen throughout Staples Center ahead of the team's game against the Trail Blazers.
James wore a wristband with Bryant's name and number on it. He additionally paid tribute to Bryant on his sneakers.
Friday marked the first Lakers game since his death as the NBA decided to postpone Tuesday's matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. The team reunited for a luncheon and shared their own memories of the Lakers legend. The team practiced on Wednesday and Thursday but coach Frank Vogel was the only person who spoke to the media.
James and Anthony Davis have not formally spoken to the media yet, though both posted emotional tributes on Instagram. James and Davis also received tattoos earlier this week in honor of Bryant.
The Lakers have not played since last Saturday, when James surpassed Bryant for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list. After the game, James expressed his appreciation of Bryant and said, "I'm happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers. The man has two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It's just crazy."
Bryant congratulated James on Twitter and wrote: "Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644"
The two also reportedly shared a phone call late Saturday night and several Lakers players listened in to the call.
Just one day later, Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in the hills of Calabasas.
Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa and their three daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri.
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