Kobe Bryant helped shape the careers of player after player at the NBA All-Star Game, so it was only natural his presence would be felt throughout the United Center on Sunday.
With every All-Star player behind him, Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson led the ceremony with a heartfelt speech about the impacts of Bryant and former NBA commissioner David Stern, who died on New Year’s Day. Both were simply giants of the game.
“We’ll never see another basketball player quite like Kobe,” Johnson said.
Multiple “Kobe” chants broke out during the address, which featured an eight-second moment of silence.
Then Chicago native Jennifer Hudson stunned the arena with an incredible rendition of “For All We Know,” as images of Bryant’s life were shown behind her.
The loss of Bryant in a helicopter crash that killed his daughter Gianna and seven other people rocked the NBA world last month, including so many young players that were teenagers or younger when Bryant delivered moments like his 81-point game.
That was felt in the locker room as the team led by LeBron James, another good friend of Bryant’s, broke their huddle with one word: “Mamba.”
Tributes to Bryant have been a feature of nearly every major sporting event since his death, from the Super Bowl to the Australian Open, plus the Oscars. That makes sense; his basketball career transcended the sports world, not to mention his movie career.
However, Bryant’s greatest impact is most clearly seen on a roster of NBA All-Stars — nearly all of whom saw him as a childhood idol, personal mentor or longtime friend — as they play for an MVP award bearing his name.
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