Tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers paid tribute to Kobe Bryant, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. As part of the memorial, LeBron James gave a speech, and though he admitted to having one already prepared, he discarded it so he could speak from his heart to an arena full of emotional fans. As he spoke, James earnestly promised about what he and his teammates will do to continue the legacy Bryant left behind.
"Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we've seen over the last three years.” pic.twitter.com/0sS7e91cuz— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 1, 2020
Before eulogizing his former teammate, James opened by acknowledging all nine of the victims of Sunday morning's accident by name. Along with Bryant, those victims included his 13-year old daughter, Gianna, Payton Chester, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Christina Mauser, John Altobelli, Sarah Chester and pilot Ara Zobayan.
James has been fairly outspoken since Bryant's death on Sunday, with two heartfelt Instagram posts and a tattoo commemorating his late teammate. His promise to continue his former teammates' legacy -- both on and off the court -- echoed what he had initially posted on Tuesday.
"My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids," he wrote. "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 shit 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!!"
In addition to tonight's speech, James also wore a special unreleased pair of Bryant's sneakers prior to taking on the Portland Trail Blazers.
As tributes poured in from across the NBA ahead of, and during, tonight's game, Usher also gave a powerful rendition of "Amazing Grace," which further tugged at fans' already-tender heartstrings.
Bryant was killed around 10 AM PST Sunday morning near Calabasas, CA when his helicopter crashed into some nearby terrain. The cause of the crash is still being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, who have asked the public's help with any photos that could help indicate what the weather was like around that time, given the helicopter did not have a black box on board.