The Los Angeles Lakers are honoring legend Kobe Bryant by giving away memorial No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys before Friday night’s game.
Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. In the wake of the tragedy, there have been a number of tributes to the basketball legend, and the Lakers are planning their own in their first game at the Staples Center since his passing. Los Angeles will be meeting the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, with tip-off scheduled for 10 p.m. EST. The Lakers had originally been scheduled to play the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, but the contest was postponed after Bryant’s passing.
As Bleacher Report noted on Friday, the team will be giving half the fans a T-shirt with Kobe’s original No. 8, which he wore when entering the league. The other half will get a shirt with the No. 24 that the future Hall of Famer wore from the 2006-07 season until the end of his career.
The Lakers are planning other tributes to Bryant at Friday’s game, the New York Post reported. Lakers players will be wearing “K.B.” patches on their jerseys, and the legend’s initials will also be integrated into the court design, along with his jersey numbers.
While the memorials have garnered plenty of attention, the Lakers players have tried to remain focused on the game itself. Head coach Frank Vogel said this week that focusing on basketball has helped players cope with the loss.
“We’re concentrating on the work,” he told reporters, via NBA.com. “There’s therapy in the work. Our whole belief since I got here is that we’re just going to put our heads down, roll our sleeves up and grind, and do the job.”
Bryant’s death hit hard for some members of the Lakers who knew him well. LeBron James, who won Olympic gold medals with the late icon in 2008 and 2012, was visibly shaken after departing the team plane. As The Inquisitr reported, the four-time NBA MVP was caught on video crying on the tarmac after he learned of the tragedy.
As ESPN reported in a video shared on YouTube, James and Bryant were not particularly close throughout their NBA careers and both were ultra-competitive, but that changed after Bryant attended a game this year with Gianna. James, himself a parent to three children, said he wanted to put on a show for the 13-year-old, and he and Kobe began forging a close relationship in recent months.