CHICAGO — Even as he stood before 24 of the NBA’s best players, Magic Johnson made a declaration about Kobe Bryant that made him unique even among those All-Stars.
“We’ll never see another basketball player quite like Kobe,” Johnson told the sold-out crowd at the United Center before Sunday’s NBA All-Star game. Moments later, those fans chanted “KO-BE, KO-BE!” which has become the soundtrack at Los Angeles Lakers home games and when legions of fans around the world have mourned his recent death.
The NBA continued offering tributes to Bryant, who died along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash three weeks ago Sunday. After mourning the recent deaths of Bryant and former NBA Commissioner David Stern, Johnson held a moment of silence for the amount of seconds that matched Bryant’s first jersey number (eight). Then, fans belted out more “KO-BE!” chants.
“How ironic is it that Kobe has worked out with a lot of these guys or given them great advice,” Johnson said as he stared at the 24 All-Stars. “He was always there for all of us in one way or another.”
After Johnson spoke, Jennifer Hudson sang “For All We Know,” which was first performed by Nat King Cole.
Shortly afterward, Common rapped the starting lineup introductions for Team LeBron and Team Giannis. Common also made several references to Bryant, including “24 hours a day, you put in the work; forget the salary/being in Chicago, you can possess that ‘Mamba Mentality.’ “
Team LeBron wore Gianna’s No. 2, while Team Giannis wore Bryant’s No. 24. Both teams wore jersey patches with nine stars, representing those who died in the crash, including Kobe and Gianna Bryant; John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli; Sarah and Payton Chester; Christina Mauser; and Ara Zobayan.
Follow Mark Medina on Twitter @MarkG_Medina.