LeBron James and Lakers pay tribute to Kobe Bryant

“Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age. Retired at 38 and became probably the best dad you could have seen over the last three years,” James said.

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Before the start of the Los Angeles Lakers versus Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night at the Staples Center, there was an emotional celebration for the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant

According to ESPN.com, each member of the Lakers starting five was introduced “one by one as ‘Kobe Bryant’ while wearing either Bryant’s No. 8 or No. 24 Lakers jersey.” 

Following moving video tributes, and performances by R&B singers Usher and Boyz II Men, and cellist Ben Hong, was an emotional speech by LeBron James since Bryant’s tragic death.

READ MORE LeBron James and Anthony Davis both get tatted to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant

James, standing in front of No. 8 and No. 24 wreaths, read all of the names of the victims in Sunday’s helicopter crash, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna: “Alyssa Altobelli. John Altobelli. Keri Altobelli. Payton Chester. Sarah Chester. Christina Mauser. Ara Zobayan. Gianna Bryant. And Kobe Bryant.”

A bouquet of roses and the jerseys of former Los Angeles Lakers basketball player and his daughter Gianna draped on the very seats the to sat in during a final game they attended at the Staples Center.

Straying from the script, James tossed his notes and told the crowd, “I’m going to go straight from the heart.”

READ MORE LeBron James reacts to the death of Kobe Bryant: “I’m heartbroken and devastated”

“Now, 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 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.”   

“The Lakers lost the game 127-119, but that was almost an afterthought,” Youngmisuk said. “After a week full of tears, it became clear that the organization, its employees, players, and fans needed this moment to come together and cry, as many did in the stand and on the floor.” 

Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, nor her daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months, were not in attendance for the ceremony. However, Vanessa posted a photo on Instagram in response to the tribute.

“There is no #24 without #2. #GirlDaddy #DaddysGirl #MyBabies #OurAngels.”