The Los Angeles Lakers are trying to ready themselves to get back on the court at long last since Kobe Bryant and eight others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday. The Lakers host the Portland Trail Blazers tonight (10:30 ET, ESPN) in what promises to be a highly emotional game as it is the Lakers’ first game — and first home game — since Bryant’s passing.
Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis took part in the team’s practice on Thursday at an outdoor field across the street from the team’s El Segundo practice facility. As part of that practice, the team played a game of pickup football for about 10 minutes and both James and Davis were sporting new tattoos on their bodies that paid tribute to Bryant, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
California-based tattoo artist Vanessa Aurelia shared a video on her Instagram story Thursday that showed her work on James’ left thigh and Davis’ right thigh. James posted a picture of the completed work on his Instagram.
LeBron honors Kobe with a "Mamba 4 Life" tattoo. ✊
(via @KingJames/IG) pic.twitter.com/qMuXJOISdn
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 1, 2020
Davis also shared a video of his procedure, writing “Until next time! Thanks for having me.”
Save for comments on social media, neither Davis nor James have addressed the media regarding Bryant’s death since it took place on Sunday. Lakers coach Frank Vogel has spoken to the media the past two days and said Thursday that the lives of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi, and the seven others will be remembered in some manner before Friday’s tipoff.
“It’s the right thing to do, and it will be an important night for our franchise and Laker nation,” he said before adding he is “going to let it all play out.”
The Lakers have now posted four oversized boards outside their practice facility in El Segundo which are used for fans to write messages or simply sign. Jeanie Buss, the controlling owner of the Lakers, posted a message on social media Thursday saying Bryant was highly regarded by Jerry Buss, the late owner of the Lakers, and the entire Buss family.
Lakers vice president Rob Pelinka, who once was Bryant’s agent and also his close friend, also broke his silence with a Thursday statement that spoke of how he had lost his “best friend” in Bryant and “my sweet goddaughter” in Gigi.
Bryant’s death has temporarily overwhelmed an exciting season of rebirth for the Lakers, who have missed the playoffs for a franchise-record six straight years. The current Lakers are poised for a serious run at the franchise’s 17th championship, with James and Davis leading a burgeoning powerhouse to the Western Conference’s best record at 36-10.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.