LIVE

"I've got something written down... but Laker Nation, man I would be selling y'all short... so I'm going to go straight from the heart," LeBron James said

By Robyn Merrett
February 01, 2020 12:07 AM
Advertisement

LeBron James is speaking from the heart.

On Friday — ahead of his team the Los Angeles Lakers’ game against the Portland Trail Blazers — a tearful, James, 35, delivered a passionate speech in honor of his late friend Kobe Bryant during a moving tribute to the NBA legend.

James began his speech by remembering all the victims of the helicopter crash that killed Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

He gently announced the names of John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan as the crowd clapped somberly.

“Before I get started on the speech that I have I want to acknowledge all the lives that were lost Sunday morning,” James said.

James attempted to go on with his speech, but then promptly decided to toss it.

“Now, I’ve got something written down… but Laker Nation, man I would be selling y’all short if I read off this s— so I’m going to go straight from the heart,” James said prompting fans to erupt in cheers.

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James
Kobe Bryant
Anthony Davis, LeBron James
| Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

“As I look around this arena, we’re all grieving, we’re all hurt, we’re all heartbroken and when we’re going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family,” James said.

“Now, I’ve heard about Laker Nation before I got here last year, about how much of a family it is and that is absolutely what I’ve seen this week,” James continued. “Not only from the players, the coaching staff and the organization, but from everybody. Everybody that’s here, this is truly truly a family.”

“I know Kobe and Gianna and Vanessa and everybody is thank you from the bottom of their hearts.”

James went on to explain that while a memorial for Bryant and Gianna is on the horizon, he is looking at tonight’s game as a “celebration.”

“This is a celebration of the 20 years, the blood, the sweat, the tears. The broken-down body, the getting up, the sitting down, the everything. The countless hours of determination to be as great as he could be. Tonight we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age and retired at 38,” James said, fighting back tears.

Kobe Bryant
LeBron James
| Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers

“Tonight is a celebration. Before we get to play, Kobe is a brother to me. From the time I was in high school watching him from afar to getting in this league and watching him up close. All the battles that we had throughout my career — the determination to just want to win, to just want to be great.”

“The fact that I’m here now means so much to me… to continue his legacy not only for this year but as long as we can play the game we love,” James said.

“So, in the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba out,’ but in the words of us, ‘not forgotten.’ Live on brother.”

Drafted by the NBA at 17 in 1996, Bryant spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, where he led the team to five NBA championships and became the youngest player to score 30,000 points.

James has been honoring Bryant all week through Instagram tributes and statements.

lebron james, kobe bryant
Kobe Bryant and LeBron James
| Credit: John McCoy/Getty Images

On Friday, the star athlete showed off his love for Bryant in a more permanent way when he gave fans a closer look at his new body ink.

James shared a close-up photo of his tattoo alongside a throwback shot of him sitting courtside with Bryant on Instagram.

“My brother ♾ #Mamba4Life #RIPKobe #RIPGiGi,” he captioned the pictures.

As seen in the post, James’ new tattoo features a snake — a reference to Bryant’s “Black Mamba” nickname — and the late athlete’s jersey numbers, 8 and 24. The design also includes two roses as well as the words “Mamba 4 Life” inked below the black serpent.

James first announced his tribute tattoo in an Instagram Story post shared on Wednesday, in which he revealed he was in the process of getting a design inked on his left thigh from artist Vanessa Aurelia.

Lakers star Anthony Davis also shared a video of himself receiving a similar tattoo, but he has yet to reveal exactly what he had got.

“@kingjames thank you for letting me Do this piece for you!!” Aurelia shared in an Instagram post on Friday. “From the bottom of my heart it was an honor and you’re the dopest to work with! Making my job easy’!! ??#mambamentality #mamba4life #lakers #RIP.”

≈
Gianna and Kobe Bryant
| Credit: Allen Berezovsky/Getty

She added, “@kobebryant you are missed loved and cherished through many.”

Bryant and his daughter Gianna were on their way to a youth basketball game with parents and players from the Mamba Sports Academy girls’ team when their helicopter crashed amid foggy conditions on a hill in Calabasas, Calif.

Bryant is survived by wife Vanessa, 37, and their daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.

If you would like to help the families of the victims of the crash, consider donating to the MambaonThreeFund. Contributions to the Mamba Sports Foundation will help support youth sports.