As NBA All-Star Weekend kicks off on Friday in Chicago, much of the activity throughout the three-day event will focus on honoring the legendary Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were killed in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash outside Los Angeles along with seven others.
One of the highlights will be the league’s announcement of Bryant as a finalist for this year’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction class, which was expected along with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, according to the Associated Press.
During his two-decade career, Bryant earned 18 NBA All-Star selections and a record-tying four NBA All-Star Game MVP awards.
Team Giannis Antetokounmpo will play Sunday’s All-Star Game wearing No. 24 on their jerseys, which Bryant wore in the second half of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Team LeBron James will wear No. 2, in tribute to Gianna Bryant and her jersey number. In addition, everyone in the Rising Stars game on Friday, all of the All-Star Saturday events and the All-Star Game itself, will wear a patch with nine stars, one for each of the victims of the helicopter crash.
“What I'm looking forward to is the time of healing,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo told the AP. “It'll give us a chance to kind of focus on the entire class because everyone is entitled to their due.”
All-Star weekend will be the first time the NBA community has gathered together since Bryant’s death and it is expected to be emotional as many players were outwardly grief-stricken upon hearing the news about someone many idolized as children.
“I think every player, anyone who's been in the game was incredibly affected by the loss of Kobe,” Colangelo said. “A few days after it happened I was in Dallas for the Hall of Fame committee meeting to look at the candidates who will be announced in Chicago and to eventually put some individuals forward. And what do you think we talked about most of the time?”
On Monday, a public memorial was held at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California for college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa. The City of Los Angeles will host a public memorial for Kobe Bryant on February 24 at the Staples Center.
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