CHICAGO — The tributes to the late Kobe Bryant began well before Sunday night’s All-Star Game at the United Center.
Before the players were announced and the game tipped off, the lights went down, and Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson took center stage to make a speech honoring Bryant.
“We’ll never see another basketball player quite like Kobe,” said Johnson, who also paid tribute to David Stern, the late NBA commissioner emeritus. “Scoring 81 points in one game. Scoring 60 points in his last game. And then winning five NBA championships.
“But what I’m really proud about when we think about Kobe Bryant, there’s millions of people in Los Angeles that don’t have a home. Kobe was fighting to get them homes and shelter every single day. He was passionate about that. He was also passionate about being a great father, husband, filmmaker. Young man won an Oscar. So we all are hurting. This is a tough time for the whole NBA family.”
Johnson led the crowd — which chanted “Kobe! Kobe!” — in an eight-second moment of silence in a nod to the number Bryant wore the first half of his career.
Chicagoan Jennifer Hudson, wearing a dress in the Lakers’ deep purple team color, performed “For All We Know (We May Never Meet Again)” as images of Bryant flashed on a screen behind the stage.
South Side product Common followed with a rap dedicated to the great players from the city, as well as Bryant, before he handled the introductions of the players.
“A king named Kobe Bryant,” Common rapped as the arena lights lit up in purple and gold. “Even in the darkest times, you’ll feel Kobe’s light.”
There was also a video that featured Jesse Williams, among others, talking about Bryant’s relationship with Chicago Bulls champion Michael Jordan.
“Kobe, we miss you and I hope we made you proud,” Johnson later tweeted.
Kobe, we miss you and I hope we made you proud.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) February 17, 2020
The Associated Press contributed to this report.