Alexander: LeBron James’ speech hits all the right notes

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersIt was perfect.The 20-minute ceremony before the Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers tipped off Friday night didn’t bring closure. It couldn’t. That is not going to happen for a while – maybe weeks, maybe months, maybe even longer, so sudden and devastating was the helicopter crash that took nine lives Sunday morning near Calabasas including Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.Fans continue to grieve. Multitudes have flocked to L.A. Live from the moment news of the crash broke Sunday morning, signing placards, leaving balloons and flowers and jerseys and other talismans of Lakers and Kobe love. Before Friday night’s game there were still thousands there, united in their mourning.The grief might be primarily for Kobe and all he has represented for Lakers fans all these years, and for his daughter, a child taken way too young. But it is also for the other passengers and the helicopter pilot. They might not have been well known outside of their communities, but they are mourned just as intensely among those who love them. So their names were on the Staples Center video board on Friday, their pictures were flashed on screens above the ticket windows outside of the arena, and James made sure to mention them all by name: “Alyssa Altobelli, John Altobelli, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan, Gianna Bryant and Kobe Bryant.”But above all this was Kobe’s night. The Lakers players came out for their layup line all wearing either No. 24 or No. 8. All of the team’s championship banners and retired numbers were covered by a black drape, except for Nos. 24 and 8. Usher sang “Amazing Grace”, cellist Ben Hong performed “Hallelujah”, and those were followed by a video tribute to Kobe that undoubtedly induced equal amounts of cheers and tears.James was the only speaker, representing not only his teammates but the entire organization. It was appropriate, and it was also a sign. If there’s anyone out there who still thinks he’s here simply to cash paychecks and tend to his entertainment industry interests, his leadership this week should finally disabuse those folks of that line of thought.“I think he’s been really a tower of strength for all of us,” Coach Frank Vogel said during his pre-game availability. “He’s really been a great leader during this difficult time for us, both by example and by just being a vocal leader. We’re following his lead, and he’s been terrific this week and I’m sure he’ll be terrific again tonight.”He was.“As I look around this arena, we’re all grieving,” James said. “We’re all hurt. We’re all heartbroken. When you go through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on family.“When I got here I heard about Laker Nation and what a family it is. That has absolutely blossomed this whole week – not only the players but the coaching staff, the organization, everybody. This is truly a family.“… From the time I was in high school, watching him from afar, then getting into this league at 18 and watching him close up, and with all the battles we had in our career, the one thing we shared was a determination to just wanna win, and just wanna be great. The fact I’m here now means so much to me. With my teammates, we want to continue his legacy, not just this year but as long as we play the game we love, because that’s how Kobe would want it.“So in the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba out.’ But in the words of us, not forgotten. Live on, brother.”And there is this: After public address announcer Lawrence Tanter introduced the Lakers’ starting lineup with a twist – each player, either wearing No. 8 or No. 24, as “6-foot-6, from Lower Merion High School, in his 20th year, Kobe Bryant” – the players huddled in that emotional moment, and the guy doing the talking in the huddle was LeBron James.I couldn’t tell if he wiped away a tear in that huddle. I know he wiped away a few before that, and he wasn’t alone. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img LOS ANGELES — As it turned out, the only person who could truly do justice to the Lakers’ pre-game tribute to Kobe Bryant on Friday night was LeBron James.“I got something written down,” he told the crowd. “They asked me to kind of stay on course or whatever.“But Laker Nation, I’d be selling you short if I read off this (stuff).”So James tossed away the script and spoke from the heart. He spoke of celebrating Bryant’s career, spoke of the similarities of the paths both men took in their journeys from high school directly to the NBA, spoke of the determination to win that Bryant carried with him, and spoke of the opportunity the current Lakers had to continue his legacy just by maintaining that focus and mindset.last_img read more