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Lakers honor life of Kobe Bryant with an emotional tribute

The lights dimmed. The chants rang out. Ko-be! Ko-be! Then, M-V-P! M-V-P! For the 19,000-plus who packed Staples Center on a somber Friday night, those things were probably expected.

The heartfelt moments that followed came in waves, inducing unpredictable emotions in the building and all over Southern California.

Usher stood in the spotlight at center court, singing “Amazing Grace” with his eyes closed. Los Angeles philharmonic cellist Ben Hong set the background music during a stirring video tribute. Boyz II Men wore gold No. 8 jerseys and sang the national anthem. A fan yelled “Jesus loves you, Kobe!” before the crowd broke into chants of “Gi-Gi! Gi-Gi!” to honor Kobe Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, one of the eight who died alongside the Lakers legend in a helicopter crash Sunday morning.

After all of that, the Lakers, a franchise forced to grieve the star shooting guard who helped to add five NBA championship banners to the rafters above, had one more surprise in store.

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LeBron James stepped to center court. It was he who read the names of the nine who departed tragically in Calabasas, bringing a city to its knees.

James, who is in his second season with the Lakers and passed Bryant to take third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list Saturday night, held a small piece of white paper but quickly tossed it aside.

Read LeBron James’ full speech here > > >

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“I got something written down. They asked me to stay on course, but Laker Nation, I would be selling y’all short if I read off this shit, so I’m going to go straight from the heart,” he said.

“The first thing that comes to mind, 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 until this point ... I’ve heard about Laker Nation and how much of a family it is ... and that is absolutely what I’ve seen this whole week. ... This is really, truly a family.

“Now, I know at some point we will have a memorial for Kobe, but I’m looking 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 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 that we’ve seen over the last three years, man.”

Earlier Friday, James revealed on his Instagram that he had gotten a new tattoo in Bryant’s honor on his left thigh. It was a black snake with the inscription “Mamba 4 Life.”

“In the words of Kobe Bryant, Mamba out,” he told the fans, “But in the words of us, not forgotten. Live on, brother.”

James put the microphone down on the floor and walked to the Lakers’ bench. The lights came on. The starting lineups were announced, finishing with Bryant’s name being called as the Lakers’ sixth man for this special night.

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The Lakers began the game with a 24-second shot clock violation, and the Portland Trail Blazers followed with an eight-second backcourt violation — as all other NBA games have begun since Sunday.

Then, somehow, the Lakers and Blazers played a game of basketball.

Pregame

During the five long and painful days since learning of Kobe Bryant’s death, the Lakers have had to confront a difficult question in the midst of their mourning:

How would they honor him in a way that pays proper respect to the legend’s impact on the franchise, the city and the game of basketball as a whole?

Friday afternoon, hours before the Lakers play their first game since Bryant’s death, at 7:30 p.m. against the Portland Trail Blazers, the answers began to be revealed.

The Lakers posted a photo on Twitter of a black circle with the letters “KB” inside of it displayed on the baseline at Staples Center, captioned “The House That Kobe Built.” The Lakers’ home gold uniforms will also feature a patch with the black “KB” logo.

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Every fan who enters the building will receive a gold Bryant jersey T-shirt. One side of the arena will wear No. 8; the other will wear No. 24.

The Lakers covered the two seats that Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, occupied the last time they came to Staples Center, when the Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 29, with Kobe’s No. 24 jersey and Gianna’s No. 2. They covered the seats with bouquets of red roses.

The names of the nine victims of the helicopter crash are scrolling around the digital banner that envelopes the arena.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said earlier Friday that he and his assistant coaches will wear Bryant’s signature Nike sneakers.

The jerseys of late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, right, and his daughter Gianna are draped on the seats where they last sat at Staples Center during a game on Dec. 29.
The jerseys of late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, right, and his daughter Gianna are draped on the seats where they last sat at Staples Center during a game on Dec. 29.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

LeBron James reveals his Kobe Bryant ‘Mamba 4 life’ tattoo

LeBron James’ chiseled physique will now forever carry the memory of Kobe Bryant on his left thigh.

Hours before the Lakers play their first game since Bryant’s death against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, James revealed on his Instagram account a new tattoo honoring Bryant, whom James passed for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list Saturday night.

The fresh ink shows a “Black Mamba” snake with a rose, a No. 24 and a No. 8, with the inscription “Mamba 4 Life.”

James also posted a picture of him and Bryant sitting on the bench together as Olympians.

The Lakers tweeted a photo of Bryant’s No. 24 jersey hanging on a wall to the side of James’ locker as he prepared for Friday’s game. James uses the same corner locker space that Bryant used during his time as a player.

Dwight Howard pays tribute to Kobe Bryant

Lakers center Dwight Howard wore a No. 8 Bryant T-shirt while shooting some baskets about an a hour and a half before the start of Friday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Howard hasn’t publicly commented on Bryant’s death, but he said this to reporters Saturday after LeBron James passed Bryant for third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list:

“We don’t appreciate each other as much as we should as a humanity. Something like that should be appreciated. We should appreciate people while they’re alive.”

Staples Center encouraging fans to stay home if they don’t have tickets

Friday afternoon, Staples Center and L.A. Live president Lee Zeidman posted a tweet asking fans who were planning to congregate at the adjacent XBox Plaza to remember Kobe Bryant before and during the Lakers’ home game against the Portland Trail Blazers to watch from their homes.

Despite Zeidman’s plea, hundreds of people have gathered and continue to bring flowers and other tokens of their affection, honoring Bryant and the eight others who died in Sunday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas.

The Lakers must know their fans, because they brought out fresh white banners of Bryant for visitors to sign on Friday afternoon.

Tickets are expensive for Friday’s game

Kobe Bryant T-shirt jerseys cover seats at Staples Center before Friday’s game between the Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers.
Kobe Bryant T-shirt jerseys cover seats at Staples Center before Friday’s game between the Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Two hours before Friday’s 7:30 p.m. tipoff for the Lakers’ first game since Kobe Bryant’s death against the Portland Trail Blazers, tickets on the secondary market were going for a minimum of $922 each on StubHub.com.

At the top of the spectrum, two courtside seats were listed at $13,200 each.

For the Phoenix Suns game on Feb. 10, the get-in price at StubHub is $96.

StubHub said it will “honor the legacy of the great Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi,” by donating 100 percent of the fees of tickets sold to Friday’s game to the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.

Magic Johnson arrives at Staples Center

Lakers great Magic Johnson is in the building for the team’s first game since Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday.

Vanessa Bryant requests for some of the Kobe memorial items left at Staples Center

L.A. mourns the death of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

At the request of Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, she will be given some items left by the thousands of fans that came to honor her husband, daughter Gianna and seven others who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Lee Zeidman, the president of Staples Center, L.A. Live and Microsoft Theater, said they also will take the perishable things and compost and spread them around the complex.

Zeidman, who knew Kobe Bryant for 24 years, said the plan is to start to dismantle everything around the area Sunday after the Super Bowl.

“It will have been a week. We have contractually obligated events that are moving in,” he said. “Vanessa had reached out to us and said, ‘Our family would like the items out there.’ So we’re going to catalog every one of them. By that I mean, t-shirts, letters, basketballs, stuffed animals, toys. We’re going to put those in specially made containers and we’re going to ship them to the family.”

READ THE REST>>>

Ducks pay tribute to Kobe

Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson will wear a Kobe Bryant tribute mask during Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Honda Center.

The mask features a silhouette of Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, and the names of the seven other victims of Sunday morning’s helicopter crash.

The helmet portrays a purple-and-gold No. 24 on one side and a No. 8 on the other.


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