LeBron James Says Kobe Bryant Is 'Watching Over' All the Players During NBA All-Star Weekend
As Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo prepare to lead their teams into the NBA’s All-Star Game on Sunday, they will also be honoring the late legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, who died in a fatal helicopter crash on Jan. 26.
“We know that he’s watching over us. It’s our responsibility to just represent the purple & gold not only for him but for all the greats, everybody that’s ever come through the Lake Show,” James told reporters on Saturday, according tosports journalist Mark Medina, adding, “It’s a very, very sensitive subject.”
For Sunday’s game, James and Antetokounmpo, who were chosen as this year’s captains, will be wearing Kobe and Gianna’s numbers. The former will represent No. 2 for Gianna while the latter will don No. 24 for Kobe, according to CBS Sports.
Each player at the games will also have patches with stars honoring the seven other victims of the helicopter crash, as well as Kobe and Gianna’s numbers, stitched onto their jerseys for all of the events over the weekend.
On Friday, Kobe, who was 18-time NBA All-Star and five-time NBA champion, was announced as one of the finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
This was his first year of eligibility and he’s joined by fellow finalists: 15-time NBA All-Star and three-time NBA Finals MVP Tim Duncan, 15-time NBA All-Star and nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection Kevin Garnett, and 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings.
“When the nominees for the Class of 2020 were announced in December, we knew this class had the potential of being one of the most historic of all time,” Jerry Colangelo, Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame said in a statement. “The untimely passing of Kobe Bryant has left us in a state of reflective mourning and we’re proud to honor his legacy while also recognizing seven other individuals who have meant so much to our game. We congratulate our finalists and those who have supported them on their journeys, and we look forward to revealing the Class of 2020 at the Final Four in Atlanta.”
Those chosen to be inducted in August will be announced on April 4, during the NCAA men’s Final Four in Atlanta.
Friday also marked Vanessa Bryant’s first Valentine’s Day without her husband and young daughter.
The mother of four, 37, shared a throwback photo of her late husband Kobe wrapping his arms around her and giving her a kiss on the cheek, along with lyrics to Lauryn Hill’s song “Tell Him” underneath the image.
“To my forever Valentine, I love you so much,” Vanessa wrote in the Instagram caption. “Missing you so much on your favorite holiday. Te amo per sempre.”
“Kisses to you and Gigi in heaven,” she added. “Happy Valentine’s Day, my babies. With all my love, your boo-boo.”
Vanessa and Kobe tied the knot in April 2001, when he was just 22 and she was 18. During their nearly 19-year marriage, the couple welcomed four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 7-month-old Capri.
The Lakers will be holding a public memorial on Feb. 24, that will also honor the other victims of the crash: John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.
The memorial has a limited number of tickets available for purchase, with all the proceeds going to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation.
PEOPLE confirmed earlier this week that Kobe and Gianna were laid to rest at the Pacific View Memorial Park and Mortuary in Corona Del Mar, California, ahead of the public memorial.