Kobe Bryant death anniversary – LeBron James pays tribute to basketball star a year on from his tragic death
LEBRON James has said "legends never die" as he paid tribute to Kobe Bryant one year on from the star's death.
Bryant died along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others when his helicopter came down in poor conditions over Calabasas, California on January 26, 2020.
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James, who now leads the LA Lakers, where Bryant spent the entirety of his 20-year career in the NBA, was speaking after the team's win over Chicago on Saturday night.
"Man, it's a saying that time heals all," he said.
"As devastating and as tragic as it was – and still is – to all of us involved with it, only time. And it takes time. Everyone has their own grieving process."
On several outings during last season's playoff and finals run, the Lakers wore their "Black Mamba" jerseys – designed by Bryant, whose nickname was Black Mamba, in 2018 – in commemoration of him.
Two enlarged jerseys with the numbers eight and 24 – the two numbers Bryant wore during his time at the Lakers – also hang in the rafters at the Staples Center, where the team play their home games.
James continued: "Us being able to remember him, wearing [Mamba] jerseys during the postseason and have the postseason we had.
"We have a lot of guys wearing his shoes, I'm able to wear the two-four on my finger every night and then when we play at Staples Center you see the eight, two-four in the rafters to live his legacy on.
"It's a lot of things that die in this world, but legends never die, and he's exactly that. So it's all about representing that."
Bryant was James's childhood hero, and the two become friends after James joined the NBA in 2003 and rose to become the league's biggest star.
They also won gold together while playing on the men's US national team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Last season saw James lead the Lakers to victory in the NBA Finals, a feat Bryant achieved five times with the team.
'HE WAS ALREADY A LEGEND'
Speaking about the aftermath of Bryant's death, James added: "I try not to put myself back in that head space because it's just too dark, for not only myself but for our organization and for everyone that's involved in it.
"As a leader of the ballclub, it was my job and my responsibility to take it all on and represent our team with the most strength that I could.
"I wanted to let everyone inside this organization know that I was okay doing that."
Bryant's former teammate Shaquille O'Neal, with whom he had a widely-reported and often-tense relationship, also paid tribute last week.
Speaking to NBC News' Today show, he said: "You know, it's still kind of hard. [I] redid my living room, redid my gym. His picture is up on the wall.
"He was already a legend. He was already a guy that will never be forgotten, but he was definitely, definitely gone too soon."
Bryant's widow Vanessa also took to Instagram earlier this month to speak about her grief ahead of the anniversary.
"Let me be real – Grief is a messed up cluster of emotions. One day you're in the moment laughing and the next day you don't feel like being alive," she wrote.
"I want to say this for people struggling with grief and heartbreaking loss. Find your reason to live. I know it's hard."
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