The memorial was attended by many NBA players and Los Angeles Lakers team members, with several shown on screens throughout the ceremony. However, James was not photographed at the Staples Center event and fans have continued to speculate about whether he was in attendance.
During Tuesday’s basketball practice, James was asked by the Los Angeles Times whether he attended the memorial. However, he didn’t clearly answer the question, instead praising Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, for her strength and poise during a difficult day.
“I respect your question, for sure,” James responded. “It was very emotional -- [a] very emotional day. Very tough day for myself, for my family, for everyone involved.”
“The one thing I can come out of this saying is how strong and how bold and how powerful Vanessa is to stand up there the way she did, to give the speech the way she gave that speech,” he continued. “I commend her. My heart is with her family still, with his three daughters that [are] still here, with his wife, with his mom and dad, his sister. It was just a very difficult day. Obviously [a] celebration, but it was a difficult day for all of us. I’d appreciate it if we can move on tonight. That would be great.”
Asked whether the memorial could help the team start moving on from their grief as they headed into Tuesday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the 35-year-old athlete noted they would be going forward with “heavy hearts.”
“It’s never going to be a closure,” he said. “We continue to live on his legacy and continue to have our hearts heavy with both sadness and with happiness for his family that are still here. So, it’s not a closure. But it was a celebration, which was well received from not only the Laker faithful, not only the family here, but everybody around the world.”
Bryant died on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash. Just one night before the accident, he congratulated James on surpassing him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
The next day, he took to Instagram to address the tragedy and pay tribute to his late pal.
"I’m Not Ready but here I go,” he began. “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! 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!!"
"I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!!" he continued. " Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation?? and it’s my responsibility to put this s**t on my back and keep it going!”
James also mentioned Bryant while taking questions from reporters at the NBA All-Star Practice and Media Day in Chicago, Illinois, on Feb. 15.
“We know that he's watching over us and it’s our responsibility to represent the purple and gold. Not only for him, but for all the greats, everybody who’s ever come to the Lake show," he said. "I don’t really want to sit up here and talk about it too much. It’s a very sensitive subject, but he’s with us every day."