Team LeBron will wear No. 2 in honor of Kobe Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who died alongside Kobe and seven others in a helicopter crash eight days ago. Gianna wore No. 2 throughout her young basketball career.
James explained his decision Monday.
“They asked me which number did I want to wear, the 24 or 2 for my team, and I picked 2,” he said.
But why No. 2?
“Zhuri,” James said, referring to his five-year-old daughter.
Following the Lakers’ emotional Friday night loss to the Blazers, James spoke about the importance of fatherhood to Bryant.
“It felt like these last three years were the happiest I’ve ever seen him,” James said. “I think we all can say that. It was the happiest I’ve ever seen him, being able to just be with his daughters, be with his family. …
“To see him these last three years just being … y’all see ‘GirlDad,’ the hashtag. I’m a girl dad. My brother right here [Anthony Davis] is a girl dad.”
Ahead of tipoff against the Blazers, James took the microphone at center court to conclude the team’s pregame tribute to Bryant.
“At some point we will have a memorial for Kobe, but I look at this as a celebration tonight,” he said. “This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body. The determination to be as great as he could be. Tonight, we celebrate the kid who came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we’ve seen over the last three years.”
He concluded his heartfelt message by saying, “In the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba out.’ But in the words of us, ‘Not forgotten.’ Live on, brother.”
The Lakers are in action on Tuesday night, hosting the Spurs in their third game since Bryant’s death.
With Team LeBron wearing No. 2, Team Giannis will wear No. 24, paying homage to Kobe during the All-Star Game.
The league also announced that the format of the All-Star Game will be different this year, turning each quarter into a mini-game for charity before an untimed final quarter with a target score that will decide which teams wins.
The team that is victorious will be the first to reach a target number determined by the total points the winning team scored through three quarters—plus 24, a homage to Kobe Bryant.
The All-Star draft will take place on Feb. 6, with James and Antetokounmpo drafting the starters and then the reserves
The All-Star Game is Feb. 16 at the United Center in Chicago.