EL SEGUNDO, Calif — In days since retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant died, it’s been hard not to see him everywhere one looks.
He’s on the decals of his numbers on the Lakers’ courts at their practice facility and at Staples Center. He’s in the rafters of both buildings, where his retired jerseys have been highlighted above the others. He’s on the jerseys the Lakers handed out at their first home game since his passing, and in the patches on the team’s jerseys. His voice is heard as an echo in tribute videos, and even in numerology, like when the Lakers collectively dropped 81 points (Bryant’s career-high) on the Sacramento Kings in the first half of their last game.
At the team’s practice on Monday, LeBron James had one more subtle tribute to Bryant on his arm. A small bracelet of purple beads on his right wrist, a solitary yellow bead separating a No. 8 block from a No. 24 one.
But it’s not just Bryant that James wants to honor. In the 2020 NBA All-Star game, his team will wear No. 2 jerseys, the number of Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who died in the helicopter crash with him along with seven others. James revealed that said tribute was his choice.
“[The league] asked me which number did I want to wear, the 24 or the 2 for my team, and I picked 2,” James said, and when asked why, his answer was simple.
“Zhuri,” James said, naming his youngest child and only daughter.
Last week after Kobe died, the term “girl dad” became a trending topic after ESPN anchor Elle Duncan told a story of how proud Kobe was to be the father of four girls, and how much he enjoyed raising daughters.
One doesn’t have to go far to see those same qualities in LeBron. Scroll his Instagram and you’ll see a loving, proud father to all of his kids, but one who seems to take a different sort of pride in his only girl. At New York Fashion Week in 2018, he memorably held Zhuri while addressing a crowd about how much the strong women in his life mean to him, and why he was inspired to hire female designers to create a model of his signature shoe specifically for women.
The loss of any child is profoundly sad to anyone, but it’s not difficult to see why Kobe tragically losing his life alongside his own young daughter would resonate so hard with LeBron. He’s happy about the changes the league made to the game to memorialize Bryant, who it’s clear he has really been mourning and wanting to pay tribute to over the last week since he died.
“It’s pretty, pretty cool. We have a legend in our league, and obviously the situation happened so we get to honor him throughout the whole weekend,” James said.
And across James’ chest, a burgeoning basketball legend in Gianna, gone too soon, will also be remembered. He made sure of that.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.