Before the Los Angeles Lakers’ first game since the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, R&B singer Usher performed a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace” as a tribute to the late legend.
Bryant died on Sunday along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. The other victims were their friends, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, and pilot Ara Zobayan.
Before the program began at Staples Center, Usher was photographed sitting alone amongst a sea of Bryant’s jerseys which were laid out by Lakers staff for fans. He later changed into an all-black suit for his performance.
The stadium was completely dark before a spotlight revealed Usher standing in the middle of the stadium. Two floral arrangements that displayed the numbers 8 and 24 – Bryant’s jersey numbers during his 20-year stint with the Lakers – stood behind him. The singer was accompanied by a pipe organ for his performance.
Describing his emotional tribute to the five-time NBA champion, the 41-year-old singer spoke with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.
“It felt like a moment to heal, a moment to acknowledge the fact that the world is in a lot of pain. We do celebrate Kobe today, but there is a mourning of his loss and also every one of the victims. Today was my opportunity to show my appreciation and also to give the world a little light in a dark place.”
After the moving performance, the Lakers played a video featuring Bryant’s career highlights. They also took a 24-second moment of silence for all the victims of the crash as their names were flashed on the jumbotron.
On January 28, Usher tweeted a photo of him with Bryant alongside the caption, “Missin You…”
Addressing the media, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said on Wednesday that representing “what Kobe was about” is the team’s priority for this season.
“I want to start by personally and on behalf of the Lakers family offering condolences to Vanessa Bryant and the entire Bryant family on the loss of Kobe and Gianna,” Vogel said. “We are all deeply, deeply saddened by this unthinkable tragedy … We want to represent what Kobe was about, more than anything.”
The Lakers also distributed free Kobe jerseys to each member of the audience during Friday’s game.
Watch the powerful video below to see Usher’s heartwarming tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant.