Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James had a choice for the NBA All-Star Game later this month in Chicago.
He could choose to have his team wear No. 24 to honor Kobe Bryant, who died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash. Or he could opt for his team to wear No. 2 to honor Bryant’s daughter, Gianna, a budding basketball star who died with her famous father and seven others on a foggy morning in Southern California.
James, who has a 5-year-old daughter of his own, quickly chose No. 2 to honor Gianna.
“It felt like these last three years were the happiest I’ve ever seen him,” James told reporters of his mentor and Lakers predecessor. “I think we all can say that. It was the happiest I’ve ever seen him, being able to just be with his daughters, be with his family. ...
“To see him these last three years just being ... y’all see ‘GirlDad,’ the hashtag. I’m a girl dad. My brother right here (Anthony Davis) is a girl dad.”
James told reporters that he thought of his daughter, Zhuri, as he chose No. 2.
Monday was another day of tributes to Kobe Bryant, who died with Gianna and seven others in the crash in the hills of Calabasas, Calif. University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma wore Bryant’s Lakers jersey under his jacket and over his shirt and tie during his team’s home game against Oregon.
The Huskies honored Gianna last week by placing a No. 2 jersey on its bench. Gianna had said she wanted to one day play at UConn.
Also on Monday, the Lakers took down a large public memorial to Bryant across from the Staples Center on Monday. The team will store the donated items and may relocate the memorial or donate it to the Bryant family depending on the family’s wishes.
James said Bryant remains at the top of mind for players on the Lakers, who pulled away for a 129-113 win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday after scoring 81 points in the first half.
“The fact that we scored 81 points ... in the first 24 minutes, how eerie that was, and then both teams’ combined points were 242, (like 24 for Kobe and 2 for Gianna), there was some weird stuff going on,” James said.
—Field Level Media