CHICAGO — The stars among stars were out in 10-degree weather Friday night to celebrate Chicago’s first NBA All-Star Weekend in three decades.
And the league didn’t miss an opportunity to honor two legendary figures in the process.
Ahead of the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game tipoff, ESPN commentators Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon — a native of Chicago — delivered emotional speeches, and 24.2 seconds of silence was held to honor the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and former commissioner David Stern.
“Two men who forever changed the NBA and the great game of basketball globally in ways only legends could,” Wilbon said.
“So let’s take these next few moments to celebrate and show gratitude for their contributions to this game we all love,” Smith added.
“They will forever be missed, but certainly never forgotten,” Wilbon said. “Thank you, David and Kobe.”
Chants of “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe” then showered the arena as the clock counted down.
Rapper Quavo also wore a white T-shirt representing Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy during pregame warm-ups instead of the traditional team gear.
Tributes to Bryant can be found throughout the weekend, including on the back of all media credentials, where photos of Bryant and Stern are stamped.
The All-Star uniforms feature patches displaying nine stars, to represent every victim who died during the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Bryant and his daughter Gianna on Jan. 26. All members of Team LeBron and Team Giannis will wear No. 2 and No. 24, respectively, during Sunday’s All-Star Game for Kobe’s and Gianna’s jersey numbers.
Bryant was also officially named a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Class of 2020 on Friday in Chicago.