Kobe Bryant's tragic death shook the entire NBA world to its core, but the Los Angeles Lakers organization was hit especially hard as Bryant spent the entirety of his well-decorated 20-year career with the Lakers and had formed many lasting relationships with members of the organization. He also provided Lakers fans with a lifetime of memories.
On Friday night, the Lakers got their first opportunity to honor Bryant's memory and legacy (they LeBron James. Decked out in a No. 24 jersey, a teary-eyed James addressed the packed crowd at Staples Center and pledged to carry on Bryant's legacy. He also said that he viewed the evening as a chance to celebrate all that Bryant did for the Lakers over the course of two decades, as opposed to a time to mourn his passing.on Tuesday night in order to grieve), and they gave the late legend a touching tribute that concluded with a heartfelt speech from
"I look at this as a celebration tonight," James said. "This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken down body...the determination to be as great as he could be. Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad that we've seen over the last three years. Tonight is a celebration.
"Kobe is a brother to me," James continued. "From the time I was in high school watching him from afar, to getting in this league at 18 and watching him up close, all the battles that we had throughout my career, the one thing that we always shared was that determination to just want to win, to just want to be great. The fact that I'm here now means so much to me. I want to continue, along with my teammates, his legacy. Not only for this year, but for as long as we can play this game of basketball that we love, because that's what Kobe Bryant would want. So in the words of Kobe Bryant. Mamba out. But in the words of us, not forgotten. Live on, brother."
You can see James' full speech below:
As James alluded to, Bryant left an indelible mark on the Lakers organization, as he played more games in the Purple-and-Gold than anyone else in franchise history. He is the Lakers' all-time leader in points, minutes and steals, and he became the first -- and only -- player in NBA history to have multiple jerseys retired by a single franchise when the Lakers raised both No. 8 and No. 24 to the rafters in 2017.
In addition to the touching speech, James also got athat he unveiled on Friday.