James teared up and paced the court as he delivered the moving speech prior to a 127-119 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Friday in Los Angeles. He threw a piece of paper on the floor, which had the words he planned to say written on it, in favor of speaking from the heart.
"I got something written down, they asked me to kind of stay on course or whatever the case may be," James said. "But Laker Nation, man, I would be selling y'all short if I read off this [expletive] so I'm going to go straight from the heart."
James wore Bryant's No. 8 Lakers jersey while making the speech. He named each of the nine victims of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash during his speech, including: Alyssa Altobelli, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan, Gianna Bryant, and Kobe Bryant."
The Lakers also paid tribute to Bryant and Gianna with a series of videos on the Staples Center big screen. Usher, Boyz II Men and Ben Hong performed for the crowd at Staples Center. Lakers players wore Bryant's No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys.
"Now, I know at some point, we will have a memorial for Kobe," James said, while standing at half court. "But I look at this as a celebration. This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body, the getting up, the sitting down, the 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 we've seen over the past three years, man.
"[This] is a celebration."
"So in the words of Kobe Bryant, 'Mamba out.' But in the words of us, 'Not forgotten.' Live on, brother," James said.
The Lakers star then dropped the microphone to the floor, mimicking what Bryant did during hist farewell speech from his final NBA game in 2016 in Los Angeles.
Bryant and James' careers overlapped from 2003 through 2015. The two shared a rivalry while being among the league's best players. The tragic helicopter crash came one day after James passed Bryant for third on the NBA career scoring list.
Lakers honor Kobe Bryant in first game since his death
Kobe was 41 years old. Gigi was 13. Kobe is survived by wife Vanessa and daughters Bianka, Natalia and Capri.