In their first home game since his passing, the Lakers held countless video tributes before James addressed fans with a passionate impromptu speech. Though the Lakers lost that game to Portland, they played with the kind of passion they have sought to replicate all season. Other NBA stars and young players credited Bryant for playing through a tough stretch, knowing that he consistently excelled even when he faced injuries or personal strife. Before Sunday’s game, Chris Paul recalled talking to Russell Westbrook about how Bryant still maintained his intensity in All-Star Games, which resulted in tying Bob Pettit for a league-record four All-Star MVP awards. “We definitely felt his presence,” Celtics guard Kemba Walker said. “Growing up, watching Kobe in those games, I felt like he was always competitive. He was kind of the one who got the game going.
I think we kept that going tonight. I think he definitely would have loved to watch the way we went out there and competed tonight.”