LeBron James Praises Vanessa Bryant's Strength

Less than a month after Kobe and Gianna Bryant died in a helicopter crash, Vanessa spoke about their lives in front of over 19,000 fans at their memorial at Staples Center on Monday
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LeBron James was struck by Vanessa Bryant's courage.

Less than a month after her 13-year-old daughter Gianna and husband Kobe died in a helicopter crash, Vanessa showed stunning strength in standing in front of over 19,000 fans -- millions more on television -- and speaking about their lives at their memorial at Staples Center on Monday. 

"One thing I can come out of it saying is how strong and how bold and how powerful Vanessa is," James said at Lakers' shootaround Tuesday before the team hosts New Orleans. "To stand up there the way she did, to give that speech the way she gave that speech. I commend her. My heart is with their family still. With his three daughters that are still here. With his wife. With his mom and dad and his sisters. It was just a very difficult day. Obviously a celebration but it was a difficult day for all of us."

It was unclear whether James attended the memorial, and he declined to directly answer the question. 

"Um, like I said man, it’s just, I respect your question for sure, but it’s very emotional," James said. "A very emotional day. A very tough day for myself, for my family, for everyone involved."

James always looked up to Bryant and said playing alongside him at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games was a dream come true. After James passed Bryant for third on the all-time scorers list, Bryant called James to congratulate him hours before his helicopter crashed on Jan. 26, killing nine people. 

James and his teammates found out about Bryant's death as they were flying home from Philadelphia. James wept when he got off the team plane. A few days later, he got a tattoo of a snake, representing a black mamba, coiled around Bryant's jersey numbers, 8 and 24, to honor him. 

He said Monday was a very tough day.

"Emotionally a wreck, like everyone else," James said. "Another challenging day for all of us. Like you’ve been hearing me talk about the last couple times you guys asked me about the whole situation, it’s just been hard to kind of talk about it. Trying not to go back. It’s just tough."

James also commented on Michael Jordan's powerful speech in which he said Bryant was one of his close friends. 

"It’s well documented how their relationship was," James said. "Mike is always looked at as like big brother to Kobe from the beginning, we’ve all seen that from the first time that they played in Chicago when Kobe was a young bol’. So, we all know that."

James praised the memorial, but was quick to say it didn't provide any sort of closure. 

"It’s never a closure," James said. "It’s never going to be a closure. I mean, we continue to live on his legacy and continue to have our hearts heavy with both sadness and with happiness for his family that are still here. So, it’s not a closure. But it was a celebration which was well received from not only the Laker faithful, not only the family here, but everybody around the world."