In advance of this year's NBA All-Star game, LeBron James opened up about the ways in which the players will honor Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant, who both passed away in a tragic helicopter crash on Jan. 26. According to PEOPLE, he also issued a touching statement about how Kobe's presence would be felt during the game, and it's sure to make fans everywhere emotional.
“We know that he’s watching over us. It’s our responsibility to just represent the purple & gold not only for him but for all the greats, everybody that’s ever come through the Lake Show,” James reportedly said, according to sports journalist Mark Medina, adding that “It’s a very, very sensitive subject.”
For this year's All-Star game, James and Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo were chosen as team captains. Both James and Antetokounmpo will honor Kobe and Gianna by donning the pair's jersey numbers (James will wear No. 2 for Gianna and Antetokounmpo is set to don No. 24 in honor of Kobe). Additionally, all of the players at the games will wear jerseys with Kobe and Gianna's numbers stitched into them as well as patches with stars honoring the seven other victims of the Jan. 26 accident, per PEOPLE.
In early February, James explained that his close bond with his own daughter tied into his choice to wear No. 2 during the All-Star game.
"LeBron said the league asked him if he wanted his team to wear 24 or 2 for the All Star game," Los Angeles Times reporter Tania Ganguli tweeted. "He picked 2, the number Gianna Bryant wore. Why? 'Zhuri.'" Zhuri is the name of James' only daughter.
James has, understandably, taken the news of Kobe's death very hard. One day after the tragic news was reported, the athlete took to Instagram to issue an emotional statement regarding the late NBA icon's passing.
"I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had!" James wrote, captioning a slideshow of photos of him and Kobe. "I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!!"
"Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids," he continued. "I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation and it’s my responsibility to put this sh— on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!!"