At an event rife with tributes to Bryant, who died last month in a helicopter crash, James talked to reporters after his team of All-Stars ― aptly named Team LeBron ― beat the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led team to win $400,000 for charity.
“You could definitely feel Bean’s presence just from the start,” said James in a post-game interview. “From every moment from the fans chanting his name, till you seen the numbers. Every time you saw Giannis’ team run on the floor, you saw the 2-4. So he was definitely here.”
James went on to reminisce about Bryant, sharing that the 2008 Olympics was one of his favorite times in their friendship.
When a reporter asked about James’ reaction to the tributes from around the globe for Bryant, James said “anything else would be uncivilized.”
“He’s one of the greatest basketball players, one of the most impactful players, and the inspiration that he has, it’s showing. How many people not only in the basketball world, but also outside the basketball world, that was touched by a person such as himself?” said James.
“Obviously, we all saw what he was able to do on the floor as a competitor, as a champion, someone who strived for excellence every single day. But we also saw the father he was as well to his beautiful daughters and to his wife. The things that he was doing, winning an Oscar, just doing so many things that people would aspire to do and gaining inspiration from him because of his drive ... I think it’s been amazing, and I’m happy to be a part of it this weekend.”
Earlier in the night, Jennifer Hudson sang a moving rendition of “For All We Know” in front of images of Bryant on the basketball court and with his children. Magic Johnson also led an eight-second moment of silence in honor of Bryant’s No. 8.
“We will never see another basketball player quite like Kobe. He was passionate about being a great father, husband, filmmaker,” Johnson said.
Bryant was killed Jan. 26, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people, when their chartered helicopter crashed in foggy weather near Los Angeles. He left behind his wife and three other daughters.