Hours before LeBron James thrilled the basketball world with his 40-point explosion during the Lakers 118-109 win against the New Orleans Pelicans, the superstar made headlines equivocating about whether he attended Kobe Bryant’s public memorial service.
The “Celebration of Life” at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles was attended by the crème de la crème of current and former athletes, including Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Rick Foxx and Lisa Leslie, to name a few.
The cameras constantly panned across the celebrity-filled crowd to capture nearly everyone of importance who was in attendance. But James’ face was never seen.
When James was asked by ESPN whether he attended the proceedings that captivated much of America, LBJ refused to give a definitive answer.
“I respect your question, for sure. It was very emotional, very emotional day, very tough day for myself, for my family, for everyone involved,” James told ESPN. “The one thing I can come out of this saying is how strong and how bold and how powerful Vanessa is to stand up there the way she did, to give the speech the way she gave that speech. I commend her. My heart is with her family still, with his three daughters that’s still here, with his wife, with his mom and dad, his sisters.”
James, who played the next game at home against the Pelicans on Tuesday, Feb. 25, would naturally be seen as a few of his current Lakers teammates were. But he was not.
“It was just a very difficult day. Obviously celebration, but it was a difficult day for all of us. I’d appreciate it if we can move on tonight. That would be great,” James said. “Emotionally a wreck, like everyone else. Another challenging day for all of us. Like you’ve been hearing me talk about the last couple times you guys asked me about the whole situation, it’s just been hard to kind of talk about it. Trying not to go back. It’s just tough.”