During an emotional pre-game ceremony, which featured performances by Usher and Boyz II Men, and a rousing speech from star LeBron James, the organization saluted one of the leagueâ€™s all-time greats in Bryant, who, along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others, was tragically killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning.
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â€œWeâ€™re all hurt and heartbroken,â€ James said, fighting back tears.
Standing next to two lofty bouquets of purple and gold flowers, shaped in Kobeâ€™s numbers, 8 and 24, James told the sold-out crowd that Friday night wasnâ€™t Bryantâ€™s memorial â€“ that would happen soon â€“ but a â€œcelebrationâ€ of the basketball icon, otherwise known as â€œThe Black Mamba.â€
James began by reading the names of all of the victims in Sundayâ€™s tragedy: Kobe, his daughter Gianna (â€œGigiâ€), John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and Peyton Chester and Ara Zobayan.
â€œIn the words of Kobe Bryant, Mamba out,â€ he concluded. â€œBut in the words of us, not forgotten. Live on, brother.â€
Earlier, the 20,000 or so passionate fans in attendance chanted â€œKobe! Kobe!â€ followed by â€œGigi! Gigi!â€ for Bryantâ€™s 13-old daughter.
Gigiâ€™s basketball teammates sat courtside for the game, dressed in black jumpsuits. The Lakers, who held a 24.2 second moment of silence, also saved seats for Kobe and Gigi, their courtside chairs adorned with jerseys and a bouquet of red roses.
Broadcast live on ESPN, the pre-game ceremony began with Usher singing â€œAmazing Grace.â€
Boyz II Men, who performed a Kobe tribute along with Alicia Keys at Sundayâ€™s Grammys, harmonized the Star-Spangled Banner.
Later, at halftime, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, would pair up for a touching rendition of â€œSee You Again.â€
At the heart of Fridayâ€™s ceremony was a gut-wrenching video assembled by the Lakers. Narrated by Bryant, himself, and featuring the beautiful music of cellist Ben Wong, the six-minute tribute captured Kobeâ€™s basketball legacy, in his own words, while also championing his off-court success as an Oscar-winner, husband and father of four daughters.
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