Friday, Jan. 31 marked the Los Angeles Lakers' first game since Kobe Bryant's death. Naturally, the franchise of the late NBA legend wanted to pay special tribute to Kobe — and that's exactly what happened both before and during the Lakers' game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among the nine people killed as a result of a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Jan 26. That Sunday morning, the helicopter went down in foggy weather conditions; the exact cause of the crash is still unknown.
Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men already honored Kobe and the rest of the crash victims during the Grammy Awards that Sunday night at the Staples Center. However on Jan. 31, it was the Lakers' turn to remember him in "the house that Kobe built."
Two seats were reserved for Kobe and Gianna.
Ahead of Friday's game against the Portland, the Lakers reserved two floor seats — which sat empty, but were decorated with roses and jerseys with the numbers 2 and 24 — in honor of Gianna and Kobe.
Every fan was given a Kobe jersey.
Additionally, those in attendance at the Lakers-Trail Blazers game also received orange jerseys with either the number 8 or 24 (both of the numbers Kobe wore) on them.
Usher performed "Amazing Grace."
Usher sang a soulful rendition of "Amazing Grace" before the game started on Friday. And as he did so, a montage of photos and video clips showing the emotional reactions and tributes to Kobe's death played.
There were 24 seconds of silence.
As part of the emotional pre-game ceremony honoring the "Black Mamba," everyone at the Staples Center observed 24.2 seconds of silence. And the video is simply chilling.
A video remembrance of Kobe played.
Also part of Friday's pre-game ceremony was a performance by cellist Ben Hong of "Hallelujah" as a video remembrance played for those in attendance. The roughly 7-minute-long video featured clips of Kobe playing and reflecting on his career through the years.
LeBron James said a few words in honor of Kobe.
LeBron James — who joined the Lakers in 2018 as a free agent — offered a heartfelt tribute to Kobe ahead of Friday's game. He began by reading off the names of all nine victims of the helicopter crash: John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli; Sarah and Payton Chester; Christina Mauser; Ara Zobayan; and Kobe and Gianna.
LeBron tossed aside a piece of paper on which he had prepared notes for his speech, saying, "Laker nation, man, I will be selling you short if I read off this s--t, so I'm going to go straight from the heart."
He continued: "This is a celebration of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken down body, the gettin' up, everything, the countless hours. The determination to be a great as he could be."
LeBron ended his tribute by acknowledging, "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."
A logo honoring Kobe adorned the court.
Just outside of the player area on the Lakers' court, was a black circle with the initials "KB" outlined in gold inside. The official Lakers Twitter account shared a photo of the logo, writing, "The House That Kobe Built."
Vanessa Bryant paid tribute to Kobe, too.
Although Vanessa didn't attend the game, the bereaved wife and mother took to Instagram on Jan. 31 to pay tribute to Kobe and Gianna while the Lakers played. Alongside a photo of the seats reserved for them at the game, Vanessa captioned her post, "There is no #24 without #2."
During the game, both teams symbolically remembered Kobe and Gianna.
For starters, every Lakers' player was introduced on the court as Kobe Bryant. The Lakers then took a 24-second shot clock violation at the beginning of the game in honor of Kobe's jersey number later in his career. Likewise, Portland committed an 8-second backcourt violation in honor of the first jersey number Kobe had.
Unsurprisingly, there were plenty of individual displays of tribute on Friday night, too. (Many players wore arm bands and/or finger bands displaying Kobe's numbers on them, for example.) But it was everything — the reserved seats, the video remembrance, the number 8 and 24 jerseys, the 24 seconds of silence, and more — culminating together on Jan. 31 that made the tribute to Kobe so incredibly powerful.