CHICAGO. — Team LeBron beat Team Giannis by two points at the 69th NBA All-Star game on Sunday at a packed United Center that fell silent for eight seconds before tip-off as about 21,000 fans joined hands to pay their respects to global sports icon Kobe Bryant.
The silence was broken by a string of thunderous “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe,” chants that rocked the stadium as the crowd honored Bryant, who wore the No. 8 and No. 24 during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers that was highlighted by five National Basketball Association championships.
The stirring pre-game tribute began with Laker great Magic Johnson rousing the crowd and paying homage to Bryant, killed along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven victims in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Jan. 26.
“We will never see another basketball player quite like Kobe,” Johnson said, highlighting his work with the Los Angeles community along with the love he had for his family. “This is a tough time for the whole NBA family.”
Johnson also paid tribute to former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who oversaw explosive growth in the popularity of the game during his 30-year tenure. Stern died on Jan. 1.
Before tip-off, singer and actor Jennifer Hudson, a Chicago native, sang with a montage of photos of Bryant and his daughter in the background.
The game was a culmination of a weekend filled with tributes to the former Los Angeles Lakers star who was an 18-time All-Star and won the All-Star game’s MVP award four times.
On Friday, Bryant, who is fourth all-time in league scoring, was named a finalist to the Basketball Hall of Fame. On Saturday, the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, announced that the league’s All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award has been permanently named for Bryant.