News ID: 265068
Published: 0307 GMT February 01, 2020

LeBron leads tributes to Bryant in first match after Lakers legend’s death

LeBron leads tributes to Bryant in first match after Lakers legend’s death

LeBron James addresses the Staples Center crowd before the Lakers' NBA game against Trail Blazers in Los Angeles, CA, US, on January 31, 2020.

LeBron James led tributes to the Los Angeles Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant in the team's first game since he died in a helicopter crash alongside his daughter Gianna and seven other people.

The Lakers lost 127-119 to the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center on a night when the team remembered Bryant's 20-year career in L.A., which delivered five NBA championships, BBC Sport reported.

Lakers players wore shirts with Bryant's numbers – eight and 24 – displayed on them in the warmup and a 'KB' logo was printed on the court.

The tribute began with each member of the Lakers' lineup being introduced as "number eight, Kobe Bryant."

Kobe's number 24 and Gianna's number two jerseys were also placed on the two courtside seats where the pair watched their last Lakers game.

"This is a celebration of the 20 years of sweat, the tears, the broken down body, the getting up," Lakers forward James said.

"Sitting down to everything, 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 the best dad we've seen over the last three years.

"The fact that I'm here now means so much to me.

"I'm going to continue with my teammates to continue his legacy not only for this year but as long as we can continue to play the game of basketball that we love, because that's what Kobe Bryant would want."

Bryant, who retired in 2016, was traveling to his 13-year-old daughter's basketball practice when the incident happened in Calabasas, California on January 26.

Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, Bryant's close friend, did not play in Friday's game as he was "not ready", according to his teammate Damian Lillard.

NBA players will wear uniforms in tribute to Bryant in February's All-Star weekend, with Team James wearing number two, Gianna's basketball jersey number, and Team Giannis (Antetokounmpo) donning Kobe's number 24.

The jerseys will also feature nine stars, representing those who died in the crash.


Unlicensed company


The company that owns the helicopter that was carrying Bryant, his daughter and seven others when it crashed was not licensed to fly in foggy conditions, officials said.

Island Express Helicopters was limited to operating when the pilot was able to see clearly when flying.

The pilot reportedly had the federal certification to fly the helicopter relying only on cockpit instruments.

However he is likely to have had little experience in doing so, experts say.





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