The NBA’s All-Stars will be playing this year with Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant on their minds and on their jerseys.
As part of what will be a series of tributes to Bryant and his daughter Gianna, the NBA announced Friday that every player on Team Giannis will wear 24 on his jersey and every player on Team LeBron will wear 2 at this year’s All-Star Game.
Kobe Bryant spent the final 10 seasons of his career in a No. 24 jersey. Gianna Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and an outstanding young player, wore No. 2 on her jersey.
All players taking part in All-Star Weekend — including the Rising Stars game Feb. 14 and the Saturday night events such as the 3-point contest, slam dunk contest and skills competition — will wear a patch with nine stars to commemorate the nine victims of Sunday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
The patches for Feb. 14 and Feb. 15 will also bear the Nos. 2 and 24. The patches for the All-Star Game will be slightly different, showing only the nine stars since players will already be wearing the numbers.
Antetokounmpo and James, the captains for the Feb. 16 game in Chicago, will pick their teams this coming Thursday.
“It’s been a rough week because of Kobe,” said Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo, a first-time All-Star who never met Bryant but was a huge fan and was hoping to meet him at All-Star Weekend this year. “Just going through that, it’s been rough.”
The plan for the jersey numbers is the second known Bryant-related tribute scheduled for this year’s All-Star Game. The NBA has changed the format and will add 24 — Bryant’s last number — to whatever the leading team’s score is after three quarters to set a target score. The first team to hit that target score will win the game.
The patches will pay tribute to John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli; Sarah and Payton Chester; Christina Mauser; and Ara Zobayan in addition to the Bryants. The group was on its way to a basketball tournament where Gianna Bryant was scheduled to play when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed. There were no survivors.
Jersey-related tributes have been many in the days since the crash. Connecticut’s women’s basketball team displayed a No. 2 jersey for Gianna Bryant — she was a UConn fan and hoped to play there one day — on its bench for a game earlier this week against the U.S. national team. Hockey star Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals took the ice this week in a No. 24 jersey as a Bryant tribute; Ovechkin usually wears No. 8, the number Bryant used in his first 10 years with the Los Angeles Lakers.
A number of NBA players have announced that they will no longer wear 8 or 24 in tribute. All-Star Joel Embiid of Philadelphia played in a No. 24 jersey instead of his usual No. 21 earlier this week, his way of showing respect to Bryant. Atlanta All-Star Trae Young, who idolized Bryant, started a game in a No. 8 jersey on Sunday before switching back to his usual No. 11.
Bryant is the No. 4 scorer in NBA history and was an 18-time All-Star during a 20-year career, all with the Lakers. He started 15 of those All-Star Games, a record that will be passed this year when James starts his 16th.
Bryant — still the youngest All-Star in league history — was All-Star MVP four times, tying Bob Pettit for the most ever. Bryant’s 38 career All-Star steals is another game record.