Sunday's NBA-All Star game was full of special tribute to Kobe Bryant and the eight other victims of the Calabasas helicopter crash. With the All-Star squads wearing No. 24 and No. 2 in honor of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna — as well as nine stars to represent the nine victims — LeBron James, whose Team LeBron beat the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led team, said "you could definitely feel" the presence of the late NBA legend.
"You could definitely feel Bean's presence just from the start," he said in a post-game interview. "Just from the start, from every moment, from the fans chanting his name to seeing the numbers every time Giannis' team run on the floor you seen the 24. He was definitely here."
James and Bryant had been friends for years, with the Lakers player stating that the 2008 Olympics was one of the many highlights of their friendship. Speaking on the tributes to Bryant that have popped up around the world in the wake of the fatal Jan. 26 crash, James said that "anything else would be uncivilized."
"He's one of the greatest basketball players, one of the most impactful players, and the inspiration that he has, it's showing," he said, according to the Huffington Post. "How many people not only in the basketball world, but also outside the basketball world, that was touched by a person such as himself?"
"Obviously, we all saw what he was able to do on the floor as a competitor, as a champion, someone who strived for excellence every single day," he continued. "But we also saw the father he was as well to his beautiful daughters and to his wife. The things that he was doing, winning an Oscar, just doing so many things that people would aspire to do and gaining inspiration from him because of his drive...I think it's been amazing, and Im happy to be a part of it this weekend."0comments
Before Team LeBron's 157-155 win over Team Giannis, the night was filled with special moments of tribute to Bryant, who retired from the NBA in 2016 following a two-decade-long career. Taking center court at the United Center in Chicago, Jennifer Hudson paid emotional tribute to the basketball star with an emotional rendition of "For All We Know." Her performance had been introduced by Magic Johnson, who asked those in attendance to hold hands during an eight-second moment of silence in honor of Bryant's jersey no. 8.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and the seven other victims of the crash will again be honored with a public memorial at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday, Feb. 24.