On Friday, Jan. 31, the Lakers paid homage to the late Kobe Bryant while playing their first game since the Los Angeles Lakers star and his daughter, Gianna, died during a helicopter crash just a few days earlier. In addition to two empty courtside seats, which were covered in red roses and jerseys to pay respect to the father and daughter duo, Usher performed while the team shared a video montage called "Remembering Kobe" — and it was just as tear-jerking as you'd expect. The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant tribute video included words that the player made about being a father and his love of basketball, and it's so inspiring.
While facing off against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, the Lakers showed that the late Bryant was first and foremost in their thoughts. During the tribute, the Staples Center turned off all the lights to showcase Kobe Bryant’s retired Los Angeles Lakers jerseys — No. 8 and No. 24 — which had been spotlit for the event.
Usher then sang "Amazing Grace" as a video montage showing Bryant reflecting on his love of basketball played in the background. "The joy of the game just comes from being out there and playing," he could be heard saying, in addition to saying how much he wanted to "spend time with family, being a husband, being a father."
The Lakers also took a moment to remember to the other victims of the helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. They named John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah and Payton Chester, and Ara Zobayan during the tribute.
The most heart-wrenching moment of the evening might have been when teammate LeBron James — who revealed a new Kobe Bryant tribute tattoo earlier that day — took to the floor to speak. While the basketball star had some prepared remarks in mind, he became visibly choked up and put those aside to speak candidly.
"The first thing that comes to mind is all about family," he told the crowd. "This is truly a family. … I look at this as a celebration tonight. This is a celebration of the blood, sweat, tears. … Tonight we celebrate the kid who came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and probably became the best dad we’ve seen over the last three years. … In the words of Kobe Bryant, Mamba out. But in the words of us, not forgotten. Live on brother."
Bryant's widow Vanessa responded to the tribute by sharing an Instagram post of the two empty seats from the Lakers game.
"There is no #24 without #2," she captioned the emotional image.
It's safe to say that it was an emotional evening for everyone still mourning the untimely passing of one of sports' most recognizable athletes, but it looks like the team is banding together to support each other in light of this loss. In the words of James, Bryant may be gone, but he's not forgotten.