Lakers pay tribute to Kobe Bryant in emotional ceremony with LeBron James, Usher and Boys II Men

The Los Angeles Lakers returned to the Staples Center to play their first game since NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others lost their lives in a tragic helicopter accident last weekend. In the pre-game broadcast on ESPN, a panel of former players and broadcasters shared their memories of Bryant, and ESPN aired a phenomenal tribute video narrated by actor Michael B. Jordan.

Lakers reveal Kobe Bryant logo on uniforms, Staples Center court to honor fallen icon

Jason Owens | Yahoo Sports

After postponing Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers are moving forward with basketball in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death.

They’ll start Friday night at home against the Portland Trail Blazers, which promises to be an ode to Bryant as much as it is a basketball game.

New Kobe logo

Prior to tip-off, the Lakers revealed new logos honoring Bryant, who died along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash Sunday outside of Los Angeles.

The logo will also be placed as a patch on Lakers uniforms. The Lakers revealed the patch logo on a No. 28 Lakers jersey, a nod to the No. 2 that Gianna wore on her youth basketball team and the No. 8 Kobe wore during his early days with the Lakers.

Fans in attendance on Friday will find T-shirts at their seats emblazoned with Bryant’s jersey number. Half of the fans will receive No. 8 T-shirts and the other half will find No. 24 T-shirts, representing the number Bryant wore late in his career.

Each number has also been placed on the floor on the sideline.

Fans without tickets asked to stay home

Staples Center officials have asked fans without tickets to stay home to watch the tribute on TV. The arena became a hub of mourning and celebration of Bryant’s life almost immediately after his death on Sunday as fans flocked to pay tribute.

The big screens at the adjacent entertainment complex L.A. Live will not be showing the game or the tribute, according to a Staples Center statement.

“If you do not have a ticket tonight for the Lakers game, do not come down to L.A. Live,” Staples Center president Lee Zeidman said, per ESPN. “Stay home with your loved ones. It’s going to be a tremendous emotional tribute to Kobe, Gianna and the seven others and you don’t want to miss it. We’re not showing it on any LED screens here in downtown Los Angeles.”

Zeidman estimates that hundreds of thousands of fans have visited Staples Center since Bryant’s death to pay tribute and leave mementos such as letters, stuffed animals and toys. He said that Staples Center will box up the items and deliver them to Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, and his three surviving daughters.

Watch LeBron James’ moving speech before Lakers-Blazers game

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

“The first thing that comes to mind is all about family. And as I look around this arena, we’re all grieving. We’re all hurt. We’re all heartbroken. When we’re going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family.

…. I want to continue along with my teammates and continue his legacy, not only for this year, for as long as we can play this game of basketball that we love, because that’s what Kobe Bryant would want.”

The Lakers played a emotional tribute video to Bryant during the pregame ceremonies.

See Usher’s incredible performance of ‘Amazing Grace’ & Boyz II Men sing national anthem before Lakers-Blazers game

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

The Lakers celebrated the lives of Kobe and Gianna Bryant on Friday night before their first game since the tragic accident that claimed nine lives last weekend. The team arranged a special musical performance during a tribute video on the scoreboard, and LeBron James delivered a moving speech prior to tipoff. Usher opened the ceremonies with an unforgettable performance of “Amazing Grace.”

See LeBron James’ new Black Mamba tattoo in honor of Kobe Bryant

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

NBA players across the league have been paying tribute to Kobe Bryant and Bryant’s family this week after the horrible tragedy that claimed nine lives last weekend. Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis revealed on social media that they were both getting tattoos in honor of Bryant, and James showed off his new ink on Friday.

Before taking the floor at Staples Center for the Lakers’ first game since Bryant’s passing, James shared a photo of his new tattoo on Instagram. The tattoo, an illustration of a black mamba, features Bryant’s two numbers with the Lakers, and the words “Mamba 4 Life.”

The Lakers are paying tribute to Bryant for the rest of the season with a patch on their jersey, and the team also added Bryant’s numbers and initials to the floor design.

Damian Lillard drops 48 to lead Portland past Lakers in emotional night at Staples Center

Ryan Young | Yahoo Sports

Basketball wasn’t the primary focus at the Staples Center on Friday night.

In the Los Angeles Lakers’ first game back after the death of Kobe Bryant — who was among nine people killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday in Southern California — how could it be? 

Yet after a long, emotional, tear-filled tribute, a basketball game had to be played.

And Damian Lillard, once again, showed up.

Lillard dropped 48 points and used a massive third-quarter showing to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past the Lakers 127-119, marking their third win in four games.

“It was hard. I think everybody had a lot of emotions coming in, and then the videos, the music, it was just one of those moments,” Lillard said on ESPN after the win. “One of our legends, icons of the world, not just our game, passing away, really tough night. I think the game started off slow because of that. It’s hard to be excited about the game when you have this type of situation.”

Lillard’s huge third quarter

Lillard has been on an impressive hot streak over the past few weeks.

The Trail Blazers star had averaged more than 48 points per game in their last four contests headed into Friday night, and was fresh off his first career triple-double. Nobody in the league seems to have an answer for him.

That didn’t change at the Staples Center, either.

Lillard, who put up 19 in a very tight first half, dropped 23 points in the third quarter alone — and shot an outstanding 6-of-7 from the 3-point line. He was simply unstoppable.

Yet even with his offensive outburst, the Trail Blazers couldn’t separate from the Lakers and entered the fourth quarter up just seven points. 

“Kobe!” chant, rally comes up short

The Trail Blazers didn’t let up in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, quickly pushing their lead to 12 — the largest of the night.

That’s when fans at the Staples Center played their part.

A monstrous “Kobe!” chant suddenly rang out, sparking a quick 9-0 Lakers run — which was capped by a deep 3-pointer from LeBron James — to bring them right back within three points.

The chant rang out again at the two-minute mark, too, as Lakers fans were trying to will their team to a win.

It just wasn’t enough.

The Trail Blazers surged ahead in the final minutes while fending off a late Lakers push to secure the eight-point win.

Lillard finished the night with a near-triple-double with 48 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. He has now hit 40 3-pointers in his last five games, too, setting a new NBA record.

Hassan Whiteside added 30 points and 12 rebounds for Portland, and CJ McCollum finished with 19 points and six rebounds.

Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 37 points, 18 of which came in the first quarter, and 15 rebounds. James finished with a near-triple-double of his own, finishing with 22 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

While it wasn’t easy by any means, Lillard said the he felt the best way to honor Bryant was to “come out here and play our hearts out.”

Damian Lillard: Nobody won tonight

“The one thing that we know for sure that we had in common with Kobe is the love of this game,” Lillard said on ESPN. “And we here, so we might as well come out and honor him in that way, and I thought we did that.”