LeBron: ‘We Celebrate the Kid Who Came Here at 18 Years of Age’
By DONNA BALANCIA
Usher delivered a gripping rendition of “Amazing Grace” and LeBron James took center stage at the Staples Center on Friday night before the first Laker game since the passing of Kobe Bryant last Sunday.
Usher, wearing a green suit, sang a somber version of the gospel hymn as social media users declared there was not a dry eye in the “House that Kobe Built.”
Usher’s performance brought out the emotions of Lakers players, all of whom were wearing jerseys with the number 8 or number 24, which Bryant wore during his years on the NBA team. Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven of their friends perished in a helicopter accident near Calibasas last Sunday.
After “Amazing Grace,” James addressed Laker Nation, which he called a “family.” He read off the nine names of the people lost in the helicopter accident: John Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan, Gianna Bryant and Kobe Bryant.
“I’m gonna go straight from the heart,” James said in opening his tribute. “The first thing that comes to mind is it’s all about family and as I look around this arena we’re all grieving, we’re all hurt, we’re all heartbroken. But when we’re all going through things like this he best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family.”
“And from Sunday morning all the way to this point, now I heard about Laker Nation before I got here last year and how much of a family it is and that is absolutely what I’ve seen this whole week,” James said. “Not only from the players and the coaching staff and the organization but from everybody. Everybody who’s here, this is really truly a family.
“I know Kobe and Gianna and Vanessa and everybody would thank you from the bottom of their hearts like Kobe said,” James said.
“I know 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 countless hours, 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.
“Tonight is a celebration,” James said. “Before we get to play … Kobe is a brother to me and from the time I was in High shool to watching him afar to get in this league at 18, watching him up close, all the battles we had throughout my career the one thing we had was the determination to win and want to be great. the fact that I’m here now means so much to me I want to continue along with my teammates and to continue his legacy not just for this year but to continue the legacy of basketball because that’s what Kobe would want. In the words of Kobe Bryant, Mamba out, but in the words of us, Live on Brother.”
Boyz II Men opened the night with the national anthem and wore Bryant’s #8 jerseys. Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth performed “See You Again” at halftime.
Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth performed “See You Again” at halftime.
“It’s been a long day without you my friend, and I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.” pic.twitter.com/ABAO6LiYuX
— ESPN (@espn) February 1, 2020
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 1, 2020
Usher performs “Amazing Grace” during the Lakers’ tribute to Kobe. pic.twitter.com/NV88OpW5Uq
— ESPN (@espn) February 1, 2020