The memory of the five-time NBA champion, who died along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people in a helicopter crash just outside Los Angeles on January 26, was honored throughout the league’s annual extravaganza in Chicago, Illinois, this weekend.
On Friday and Saturday, players who took part in the Rising Stars game and in the All-Star Saturday events wore jersey patches featuring the numbers 2 and 24—Gianna and Kobe’s jersey numbers—in the center surrounded by nine stars.
The numbers also featured in the All-Star Game on Sunday, with players on the team captained by LeBron James all wearing No. 2 and players on the team captained by Giannis Antetokounmpo wearing No. 24 instead.
Additionally, the NBA altered the format of the fourth quarter to honor Bryant, setting a target score in the final period by adding 24 points—again a nod to the number Bryant wore in the second half of his career—to the leading team’s combined score through three quarters.
James praised the symbolism of the jerseys and the decision by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to rename the All-Star Game MVP trophy after Bryant.
“I think it’s just another great deed of our great commissioner, Adam Silver,” he was quoted as saying by ESPN.
“Just for him to think of that and be able to rename the MVP trophy after Kobe. What that guy meant to our league, his inspiration around players [….] Every time Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and his teammates ran down the court, I see the back of them, No. 24. I noticed my finger band that has a 24 on it. His legacy is living on every single day with us.”
Leonard became the first recipient of the Kobe Bryant MVP award after leading Team LeBron to a 157-155 win and paid tribute to the late NBA great.
“Words can’t even explain, just making this the first Kobe Bryant MVP trophy,” the reigning NBA Finals MVP told NBA on TNT after the game.
“I want to thank Kobe for everything he [has] done for me, all the long talks, the workouts, thank you.”
Ahead of the game, former Lakers great Magic Johnson delivered a speech to honor Bryant’s memory, suggesting his impact off the court had been as powerful as his legacy on it.
“We’ll never see another basketball player quite like Kobe,” the Hall of Famer said.
“Scoring 81 points in one game. Scoring 60 points in his last game. And then winning five NBA championships. But what I’m really proud about when we think about Kobe Bryant, there’s millions of people in Los Angeles that don’t have a home. Kobe was fighting to get them homes and shelter every single day. He was passionate about that.”
Images of Bryant flashed on a screen behind the stage as Jennifer Hudson performed before the game, dressed in Lakers purple.
Hudson wasn’t the only entertainer to pay tribute to Bryant, with Common and Chance the Rapper both honoring the memory of the 18-time All-Star in their performances.
The post LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard Lead Kobe Bryant’s Tributes at NBA All-Star Game: ‘His Legacy Is Living With Us’ appeared first on Newsweek.