LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The Los Angeles Lakers will play their first game Friday since the death of legendary player Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash this past weekend which also claimed the lives of eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
The Lakers will face off with the Blazers, with tip-off scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Fans were advised to be seated by 6 p.m. ahead of the pregame tribute ceremony.
Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony – a good friend of Kobe’s – said in an Instagram post that Bryant had told him he planned on attending Friday’s game.
Inside Staples Center, all fans on one half of the arena will receive t-shirts with Kobe’s No. 8 jersey, while fans on the other side will receive shirts with No. 24.
Tickets for Friday’s game have been going for thousands of dollars. As of early Friday afternoon, seats in the 300-level were starting at around $850 on SeatGeek.
The Lakers coaching staff will be wearing Kobe signature sneakers on the bench, ESPN’s David McMenamin reported.
At the Clippers’ home game against Sacramento on Thursday — the first played in Staples since Kobe’s death — the Clippers left Kobe’s retired jerseys up in the rafters uncovered. Clippers star Paul George narrated a two-minute pregame tribute video.
Fan Shane Beck told CBS2 Friday that flew out from West Virginia to attend Friday’s game.
“Just growing up in West Virginia, we didn’t have a professional team to watch, so I just grew up watching Kobe,” Beck said.
Beck paid over $1,000 for a nosebleed seat.
“I think it was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, it’s a way to pay my respects and see how the Lakers honor him and be around some people who are feeling the same emotions I am,” Beck said.
Meanwhile, the memorial for Kobe in Xbox plaza outside Staples continues to grow.
“It was important for me to come, to put closure, be at peace with what has happened and then continue on with life,” said flight attendant Joy Satele, who stopped by to pay her respects to Kobe.
Laker players have not themselves spoken on camera since Kobe’s death. The Lakers were scheduled to play the Clippers Tuesday, but that game was postponed. At practice Wednesday at the team’s El Segundo facility, head coach Frank Vogel told reporters that coping with Bryant’s death has “just strengthened what we’ve felt all year about our current group, which is we’ve become a family in a very short time.”
Staples Center officials are advising fans who don’t have tickets for the game not to come to the plaza because it will not be shown on the big screen outside the arena. The game will air on ESPN.