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Lakers Fans Hold Emotional Pre-Grame Tribute For Kobe Briant

Valentine Chinyem

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Friends and fans gathered at the Staples Center to honor one of basketball’s greatest, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others who lost their lives in a helicopter crash in Calabasas California on Sunday 26 January, 2019.

The ceremony started just before the Los Angeles Lakers against Portland Trailblazers games on Friday, a game which is their first since the tragic incident took place.

Kobe and his daughter Gianna courtside seats were left empty covered with roses, as a sign of honor to them.

More so, the games featured a 24-second and 8-second violations to honor the NBA icon’s retired numbers.

Another major event at the emotional ceremony was the 20,000 shirts with Bryant’s jersey number laid out on the seats of the Staples Center.

The ceremony proper started with the Lakers’ pre-game tribute to Bryant starting with an emotional performance of “Amazing Grace” by popular singer, Usher.

This was followed by a tribute video which was played to honor Kobe’s legacy, not just for the game of basketball, for Lakers as well as his life in and outside the court.

Boyz II Men were on hand to perform the National Anthem.

However, LeBron James brought everyone to their feet, after he gave a heartfelt eulogy to the legend.

It would be recalled that Kobe, a day before his death, had sent a message to James congratulating him on his achievement. He said, “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant tweeted. “Much respect my brother.”

Kobe also added the hashtag #33644, to his tweet, referring to the number of points that James had scored to surpass him.

In an emotional laden voice, James read out the names of those who died in Sunday’s helicopter crash: “Alyssa Altobelli. John Altobelli. Keri Altobelli. Payton Chester. Sarah Chester. Christina Mauser. Ara Zobayan. Gianna Bryant. And Kobe Bryant.”

He tossed his note to the floor, as he gave his own tribute:

“I got something written down, they asked me to kind of stay on course or whatever the case may be,” James said, while trying to hold back tears after the emotional tributes.

“But Laker Nation, man, I would be selling y’all short if I read off this s— so I’m going to go straight from the heart,” he said.

“Now, I know at some point, we will have a memorial for Kobe,” James said.

“But I look at this as a celebration tonight. 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. Tonight, we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we’ve seen over the past three years, man.

“Tonight is a celebration.”

The Lakers, however, lost the game 127-119, but this was nothing compared to the reason why the fans had gathered.

It has been a week of mourning for the basketball world across the globe but the tribute gave fans the opportunity of sharing in the beautiful life and moments of the legend, who many still refer to as a great dad and husband to his family.

Rob Pelinka, Kobe’s best friend, longtime agent and godfather to Gianna his daughter, greeted the crowd who had gathered to offer him their deepest sympathy, as he made his way out of the arena.

Chairs at Staples Center with Kobe number 24 Jersey

Rob Pelinka is also the vice president of basketball operations and general manager.

James addressed the crowd outside, “The first thing that came to mind, man, is all about family.”

“As I look around this arena, we’re all grieving. We’re all hurt. 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 to this point — and I’ve heard about Laker Nation before I got here last year, about how much of a family it is — and that’s absolutely what I’ve seen all week.”

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