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NBA Star James LeBron

Emotional Tribute From The King To The Black Mamba

Gettyimages | Zhong Zhi
By Rhode InStyle

Emotions run high on Friday night when hosted the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center for the first game for the California franchise since Kobe Bryant died in a tragic helicopter crash on Jan. 29.

It gave The Lakers an opportunity to pay tribute to the late NBA icon, consisting of music performances and a pre-game speech delivered from team star LeBron James. A six-minute tribute video to Bryant highlighting his career accomplishments was also played, with the voiceover provided by the basketball legend.

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Bryant fan
Gettyimages | Wally Skalij

There was a solemn mood as Usher Raymond performed a touching rendition of “Amazing Grace” with Boyz II Men delivering the National Anthem with emotions nearly become too much for some fans, faced with the realization that “The Black Mamba” will never come back.

An emotional James, who had written a speech at the request of the organization chose to speak from the heart instead, beginning his tribute by honoring all those who died in the tragic crash that took Bryant and his daughter Gianna’s life along with John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan, Sarah Chester and Payton Chester.

Kobe and James
Gettyimages | John McCoy

A visibly shaken, James talked about grief and the importance of leaning on the shoulders of family, “As I look all around this arena, we’re all grieving, we’re all hurting, 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 and from Sunday morning all the way until the point – I had heard about Laker Nation before I got here last year about how much of a family it is – and that is absolutely what I’ve seen this whole week. Not only from the players, not only from the coaching staff, not only from the organization but from everybody.”

Kobe Bryant in action
Gettyimages | Harry How

He spoke of the night as a celebration of Kobe’s work ethic and legacy, “This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body, the getting up, the sitting down, the everything, the countless hours, the determination to be as great as he could be.”

He said he loved Kobe and how he inspired his career all the way from high school, “All the battles we had throughout my career, the one thing that we always shared is that determination to just want to win and just want to be great, and the fact that I’m here now means so much to me.”

Giphy | NBA

He spoke of Kobe’s legacy and its continuation for as long as they can play the game of basketball because, “That’s what Kobe Bryant would want.” An emotional James said, “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. “So in the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba Out,’ but in the words of us, ‘Not forgotten,’ Live on brother.”

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