James had just passed Bryant for third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in the latter’s hometown the night before the accident occurred and was able to share one final conversation with him before his tragic death.
Against the Portland Trail Blazers, James delivered a powerful pregame speech honoring Bryant and providing words of encouragement and support to all those who have been grieving alongside with him.
“I just try to play the game the right way no matter what. I love the fact that… what he meant to this organization, what he meant to the game of basketball is going to be acknowledged in a lot of arenas that we play in. What he was able to do here in Sacramento as an opponent. Some of his biggest games he had against this franchise, so they acknowledged the great Kobe Bryant tonight and we just try to go out and do what he would want us to do and that’s win a basketball game.”
Chants of ‘Kobe!’ broke out in the Golden 1 Center during the game and seemed to invigorate James and the rest of the team. There was one occurrence in the fourth quarter where the crowd was chanting and James buried a three from the top of the key, much to the delight of the bench and the fans in attendance.
Although it has already been a week since Bryant’s passing, opposing teams and players have continued to show their support and respect for the Lakers icon with no signs of it slowing down anytime soon. The league has also done their part in honoring Bryant as they have made several changes to the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.
The win against the Kings was arguably one of the team’s most important wins of the 2019-20 NBA season as it showed they are more than capable of bouncing back amidst all the emotions and playing to their potential on both ends of the floor. Bryant’s passing will loom over the team for the rest of the season, but they have the mental strength to power through that and still win games.