Relive the stunning tribute to Kobe Bryant from the Lakers and LeBron James

In the end, it was a celebration of life — if one with a fair share of heavy hearts.

The Los Angeles Lakers took the court on Friday night for the first time since the passing of Kobe and Gianna Bryant and the seven other victims in Sunday’s tragic helicopter crash. The evening promised to be emotional, but the Lakers organization and all those involved pulled out all the stops to make sure Friday was a special moment.

Before the evening began, the Lakers added a few special touches to the Staples Center floor, as well as their uniforms.

In addition, each seat in the arena was adorned with a Kobe t-shirt.

The Lakers held an extended tribute to Bryant, with a rendition of “Amazing Grace” performed by Usher Raymond…

Ben Hong playing the cello while a video of Kobe speaking played in the Staples Center with footage of him and his late daughter…

And Boyz II Men performing the National Anthem.

But the indelible moment of the evening — the one we’ll all remember years from now — was LeBron James’ incredibly poignant speech, for which he eschewed his prepared statements and spoke from the heart:

Lost in the same helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe and Gianna were seven other passengers: John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan.

Gianna, Alyssa and Payton were teammates on Kobe’s Mamba Academy girls team, and the Mamba girls squad sat courtside for Friday’s game.

In a particularly touching note, every member of the Lakers starting lineup was introduced as “Kobe Bryant”:

As for the game, to begin, the Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers followed the example of nearly every other NBA team and took a 24-second violation, followed by an 8-second violation.

Players donned Kobe-themed gear:

And players broke out their best Kobe-inspired moves:

In the end, the Blazers emerged triumphant, as Damian Lillard spoke of honoring Kobe with the Mamba Mentality in the victory:

Despite the Lakers’ loss, both teams put on stellar, emotional performances — in front of the most important crowd of all:

The fact a basketball game was played was the first step to returning to some sort of normalcy — the first part of not getting over the tragic passing of Bryant, but living with it and moving forward.

It was a difficult night, to be sure:

But it was for Kobe. And everyone, from the teams to the players and fans, did him proud.