The Los Angeles Lakers paid tribute to their longtime legend Kobe Bryant during a pre-game ceremony on January 31st. Friday’s event was mostly led by LeBron James, who chose to forgo a written script and speak “straight from the heart.” The only time James referenced the script was to accurately read the names of all nine victims who perished in the fiery helicopter crash – one of which was Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
James and his fellow Lakers chose to view the night as a celebration. Their team’s efforts did not go unnoticed by Kobe’s wife, Vanessa.
"Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we've seen over the last three years.” pic.twitter.com/0sS7e91cuz
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 1, 2020
“There is no #24 without #2,” Vanessa wrote via Instagram followed by the hashtags “GirlDaddy,” “DaddysGirl,” “MyBabies,” “OurAngels,” and concluding with “KobeandGigi.”
Her words served as a caption to a photo taken last night of Kobe and Gigi’s jerseys displayed over the exact courtside chairs they sat in at the final Lakers game they attended together. The seats each contained a bouquet of red roses, and every fan seating behind them was adorned with a Kobe t-shirt: all ticket holders got to take one home last night as it was the first game the team had played since the January 26th tragedy.
The Lakers organization also revealed a new addition to the court, where they’ve placed a large emblem with the initials “KB.” The reveal came via a Twitter post that read “The House That Kobe Built,” referring to the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.
Although thousands of people have been encouraged to stop by the STAPLES Center over the past week to pay their respects, the facility kindly asked that non-ticket holders watched the pre-game tribute “at home with family, friends, and loved ones” since they chose not to display it on any outdoor screens.
The House That Kobe Built pic.twitter.com/1exfvaXnE8
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 31, 2020
Lee Zeidman, who serves as the president of the STAPLES Center, its adjoining L.A. Live and the Microsoft Theater, told the LA Times that they have come up with a “tear down” date for the ever-growing Kobe shrine that continues to build outside of the complex: the process will begin after Sunday night’s Super Bowl.
He also confirmed that Vanessa Bryant has asked to be given the tribute items to keep for her family. Additionally, he offered that his team is working hard to make it as meaningful as possible for everyone involved.
“It will have been a week,” Zeidman said of their post-Super Bowl clean up efforts. “We have contractually obligated events that are moving in. Vanessa had reached out to us and said, ‘Our family would like the items out there.’ So we’re going to catalog every one of them. By that I mean, t-shirts, letters, basketballs, stuffed animals, toys. We’re going to put those in specially made containers and we’re going to ship them to the family.”
They will also be composting items such as flowers to reuse on the grounds surrounding the arena. “That means that all those fans that took the time to buy the flowers and plants and brought them down [here],” Zeidman assured, “some of that will still be around the site.”