DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES -- During a pregame ceremony at Staples Center Friday ahead of the first Lakers game since the death of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James delivered a tribute for the late NBA legend.
James started off by acknowledging the other eight lives lost in Sunday's helicopter crash in Calabasas. He then scrapped his prepared speech to "go straight from the heart."
The following is a transcript of his full speech:
"The first thing that comes to mind is all about family. And as I look around this arena, we're all grieving, we're all hurt, we're all heartbroken, but when we're going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family. From Sunday morning, all the way to this point, I heard about Lakers nation before I got here last year, about how much of a family it is. And that is absolutely what I've seen this whole week, not only from the players, not only from the coaching staff, not only from the organization, but from everybody. Everybody that's here, this is truly, truly a family and I know Kobe and Gianna and Vannessa and everybody thank you guys from the bottom of their heart, as Kobe said.
Now, I know at some point, we will have a memorial for Kobe. But I look at this as a celebration tonight. This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken down body, the getting up, the sitting.. everything... the countless hours, the determination to be as great as he could be. Tonight, we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad that we've seen over the last three years, man. Tonight is a celebration.
Before we get to play... *to the crowd* I love y'all, man.
Kobe is a brother to me and from the time I was in high school, to watching him afar, to get in this league at 18, watching him up close, all the battles that we had throughout my career, the one thing that we always shared is that determination to just want to win and just want to be great. And the fact that I'm here now, means so much to me. I want to continue along with my teammates, to continue his legacy, not only for this year, but for as long as we can play the game of basketball that we love because that's 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."