The LA Lakers have honoured Kobe Bryant with an emotional tribute before their NBA game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
LeBron James made a speech in which he said that, despite the sombre mood, the night should be a “celebration”.
It was the first game the Lakers, Bryant’s team for his entire 20-year NBA career, have played since his shock death in a helicopter crash on Monday (AEDT).
The Lakers were supposed to play against cross-town rivals the LA Clippers two days after Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others died in the crash, but that game was postponed indefinitely.
Lakers players all wore number eight or number 24 Bryant jerseys during the warm-up and were all introduced to the crowd as Kobe Bryant by the stadium announcer.
To start the ceremony, recording artist Usher stood in the centre of the darkened arena and sang Amazing Grace in front of floral tributes of the two playing numbers Bryant wore with the Lakers.
After Usher finished, fans broke out into chants of “Kobe”, “Gigi” and “MVP” as their images appeared on the big screen.
Then, a video tribute played out on the big screen, with a lone cello playing a haunting version of Hallelujah on the court.
Boyz II Men then sang the national anthem as James and Lakers teammate Anthony Davis hugged and appeared to blink back tears as they stood arm-in-arm on the sideline.
Fans stood in silence for 24.2 seconds as spotlights illuminated the two seats where Kobe and Gigi sat the last time they saw the Lakers play, which had roses laid out on them.
James then took the microphone and read out a list of names of those who died in the crash: Alyssa Altobelli, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Gianna Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan.
He then pulled out a pre-prepared speech, although he soon discarded it, telling fans: “Laker Nation, I’d be selling you all short if I read from this shit so I’m just gonna read from my heart.”
“I know at some point we’re going to have a memorial for Kobe,” James said, “But I look at this as a celebration tonight.”
James continued as his teammates hugged each other behind him.
“Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we’ve seen over the last three years,” he said.
“Tonight is a celebration.
“Kobe is a brother to me … the fact that I’m here now means so much to me.
“I wanna continue with all of my teammates, to continue his legacy,” he added.
“Not only for this year, but for as long as we can play the game of basketball that we love, because that is 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.”
Both teams started with time violations. The Lakers, with a 24-second violation, followed by an eight-second violation from the Trail Blazers, echoing similar tributes from around the league.
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