The NBA’s two All-Star teams will wear jersey numbers honoring the memory of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna in the mid-season showcase, and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James had a simple reason for going with Gianna Bryant’s No. 2.
“Zhuri,” James said, referring to his own five-year-old daughter.
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James spoke movingly on Friday of the joy Bryant had found since his retirement in life as a family man and father of four daughters.
“It felt like these last three years were the happiest I’ve ever seen him,” James said.
The numbers are among the planned All-Star weekend tributes to Bryant and Gianna, who were among nine people who died in helicopter crash on January 26.
The team captained by Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will wear the No. 24 that Bryant wore in the later stages of his 20-year NBA career.
Memories of Bryant are sure to be everywhere for the rest of the season, but James said the Lakers are finding their way forward.
“Today was the start of a new week,” James said as the team trained at their practice facility in suburban El Segundo. “We got a great workout, great practice today.
“We continue to focus on what needs to be done to continue to win ball games and get better and be as great as we can be. So it was a good day for us today.”
But it hasn’t been easy, and James said the Lakers continue to lean on each other as they try to get to grips with Bryant’s death.
“There is no way any individual can do it on their own,” he said.
“The week that we had, the week that we’ve all had.
“You have to lean on somebody in order to gain strength. That’s the only reason we’re all able to get through it together.”