Los Angeles Lakers played their first game on Friday after former legendary player Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. Tens and thousands of fans lined up outside Staples Center, the home court of the Lakers, to pay tribute to the 18-time All-Star. Fans flooded the arena wearing Bryant's Lakers jersey and laid flowers along with messages on temporarily erected white walls. Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died along with seven other people on January 26 while travelling to a girls' basketball tournament.
National Basketball Association (NBA) had previously cancelled a game between Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers that was scheduled for Tuesday, citing that the team needed more time to grieve. Inside the arena, Kobe's 24 number jerseys were placed on the courtside seat where he sat at his last Lakers game. Lakers honoured the late Kobe with a tribute before the first game with emotional performances by Usher and cellist Ben Hong and a speech by LeBron James.
Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth performed their chartbuster 'See You Again' at halftime. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said that the Oscars ceremony on February 9 would include a tribute to Bryant. Vanessa Bryant took to her Instagram handle to thank millions of people who've shown their support and love during the horrific time. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said that the tragedy has brought the team closer than ever and credited the leadership of LeBron James and Anthony Davis with helping the players manage their emotions.
During their Friday match against Portland Trail Blazers, all the players wore Kobe's number 24 and number 8 jersey and each player was announced as Kobe Bryant in the lineup. Lebron James also revealed his permanent tribute to Kobe Bryant before the game as he displayed a tattoo that read, "Mamba 4 Life." The 41-year-old late professional basketball player was inducted into the Lakers directly from high school and played his entire 20-season professional career in the league with the Los Angeles Lakers.