Friday night marked the first Los Angeles Lakers game following the tragic death of the NBA icon, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others in a Calabasas, CA helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26th. While the world mourned his passing, his longtime employer and extended family, the Los Angeles Lakers, paid tribute to Kobe Bryant with a series of performances during the pre-game ceremony before their game with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Usher performed “Amazing Grace” for the first tribute of the night. While Usher sang, the STAPLES Center crowd watched a tribute video of fans, basketball players, and athletes of other sports mourning in the wake of the news of Bryant’s death.
Watch Usher sing “Amazing Grace” below.
Usher – “Amazing Grace”
After a tribute video that highlighted Bryant’s career and featured voiceover’s by the icon himself, Boyz II Men made their way to the court for an impassioned rendition of the National Anthem. Lakers’ players were seen crying during the emotional a capella performance.
Watch Boyz II Men’s National Anthem below.
Boyz II Men – National Anthem
The ceremony closed with a speech from Lakers star and future NBA Hall of Famer, Lebron James. After scrapping his written speech, James spoke off-the-cuff. “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,” he said. “So in the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba Out,’ but in the words of us, ‘not forgotten.’ Live on brother.”
Lebron James Pre-Game Ceremony Speech
The team had one more tribute in store for the STAPLES Center crowd that evening. A half time tribute by Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa saw the musicians perform “See You Again”, the 2015 track that pays homage to actor Paul Walker. Khalifa expressed his sympathies during the song: “Peace and blessing to his entire family. His legacy is gonna be remembered. We love you Kobe.”
Charlie Puth & Wiz Khalifa – “See You Again”
[Video: House of Highlights]
Stubhub has announced that it would donate all ticket fees from the game to The Bryant Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of families and communities in need. Click here for more information.