LeBron James Breaks Down in Speech Honoring Kobe Bryant at Lakers Game

The athlete was visibly emotional during his first game back since news broke of Bryant's death.

It was an emotional night at Staples Center on Friday night.

The Los Angeles Lakers returned to the court, in their first game since Kobe Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. After an emotional tribute at the beginning of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers, LeBron James was visibly emotional as he took the court and gave a touching speech.

He began by taking a moment to name all those who died on Sunday: Alyssa Altobelli, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan, Gianna Bryant and Kobe Bryant. He then proceeded to skip his written down speech and talk "straight from the heart."

"The first thing that comes to mind is all family, and as I look around this arena, we're all grieving and we're all heartbroken," James said. "When we're going through things like this the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulder of your family."

"This is truly a family and I know Kobe and Gianna, and Vanessa, and everybody thank you from the bottom of their heart as Kobe said," he continued. "I know as some point we will have a memorial for Kobe, but I look at this as a celebration tonight. This is a celebration of 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken down bodies, the getting up, the sitting down, 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 have seen over the last three years."

"Tonight is a celebration. Before we get to play, I love you'll, Kobe, a brother to me and from the time I was in high school, watching him from afar to getting into this league at 18, watching him up close," he said. "The one thing we always shared in the determination to just want to win to just want to be great."

James ended his speech by vowing to hold and continue Bryant's legacy. 

James was also in tears as he arrived on the court and watched the tributes before the game.

Harry How/Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

While many former Lakers and Bryant's teammates shared messages of condolences, James was seen breaking down in tears after hearing the sad news.

On Monday, the basketball star -- who became a Laker after Bryant retired -- broke his silence on Bryant's death. "I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man [I'm] sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had!" James wrote in part. "I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!!"

The NBA, as well as various sports events and awards shows, have been honoring Bryant's legacy. On Wednesday, the Brooklyn Nets showed a two-minute video of the former Los Angeles Laker and ended with a spotlight shining on two empty courtside seats with purple and yellow flowers on them. The seats were the same ones Bryant and Gianna sat while watching a Dec. 21 game against the Atlanta Hawks.

In a now-viral video, Bryant is seen coaching and giving his daughter, who was also a basketball player, tips and lessons as a sequence played out. In the days following their deaths, fans have been sharing the sweet father-daughter moment. 

Al Bello/Getty Images

That same day, Bryant's wife, Vanessa, released a statement, expressing her heartbreak and devastation, as well as her gratitude for the monumental outpouring of love and condolences. 

Watch the video below to hear the message she sent her husband's fans.