The LA Lakers paid tribute to Kobe Bryant in a way that was fitting of the legacy the Black Mamba has left.  If he were alive, Bryant would have turned 42 years on August 23, but what remains of him are his memories, his contributions to sports, his family and all the precious moments he shared all the fans and NBA.

Monday was Kobe Bryant Day, and the Lakers left nothing behind as they pulled off an amazing performance against the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA postseason.

Lakers Kobe Bryant Tribute vs Trail Blazers

The game between the Lakers and the Trail Blazers last night at Disney World was a show from start to finish.  The Lakers wore a special jersey with the message “Black Mamba” on it to pay tribute to Kobe, and launched into a special commemoration of Bryant from the first tip-off, quickly building a 15-point lead.  It only got better from there.

LeBron James, and everyone else playing or watching, was stunned when, in the first quarter, the scoreboard reflected something a little eerie.  James explained, “When I looked up [at the scoreboard] and saw [the score was] 24-8, I was like, OK, this is a [sign].”  Recognizing the score as the two numbers Bryant wore throughout his successful basketball career, James added, “He’s here in the building.” Life is not always ruled by coincidences; sometimes miracles can happen.

Last night became an awesome night.  Usher serenaded the crowd with a lovely “Amazing Grace,” Ben Hong gave a pitch-perfect intonation of “Hallelujah” on the cello, Boyz II Men sang the national anthem, and then LeBron addressed Stapler Center with a great speech. Damian Lillard of the Trail Blazers scored 48 points to conquer the show, but this was overshadowed by a massive fading three-pointer well beyond the paint by James that saw nothing but net.

This time, the Lakers played much better than they had since their arrival in Orlando.  The Lakers led at the halftime, 80-51, setting a new milestone for the team.  In 15 years, no NBA team had scored over 80 points in a half of a playoff game, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Los Angeles Gives Bryant Props

Los Angeles City Hall was illuminated in purple and gold to pay tribute on Kobe Bryant Day, officially designated to be held on August 24, and it had its own emotional weight for the Lakers.  Coach Frank Vogel said, “The emotional aspect did feel different than any other game we played since we’ve been in the bubble.”  He added, “Obviously Kobe is dearly missed.  To have a game on 8/24, Kobe Bryant Day, all of us in our whole organization, but particularly our players, felt that and carried that emotion onto the playing court.” No wonder someone like Bryant will always be remembered; his abrupt death turned into a terrible loss for the NBA and the entire sports world.  In fact, when the NBA lost Bryant, the league became fragile; his essence is unreplaceable.

Bryant Will Always Be Alive

LeBron felt excited about paying tribute on Kobe Bryant Day for the Lakers.  He asserted, “It’s been an honor to just put on the Lakers uniform.  Even before the passing of the great Kobe Bryant. Tonight was another one of those moments for [me], for this organization, for all the players … To go out there one day removed from his birthday and then his day of 8/24, to be able to have a game on this day, the stars aligned.” LeBron dominated the game with 30 points, ten assists, six rebounds and a block in just 28 minutes of on-court action.

Lakers GM and VP of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka also shared his words full of emotion about Kobe’s death.  He told ESPN, “When we played Portland after the tragedy we played, understandably, with heavy hearts.  Tonight, we were able to play with uplifted spirits to honor the beautiful lives of Kobe and Gigi.  We played this game like they both played — with a laser focus on the highest level of competition, and with a purpose of getting better.” The NBA – and the entire sports world – will always be grateful for having had such a talented player like Kobe.  His legacy, on and off the court, will never die.