"You could definitely feel Bean's presence," LeBron James said following the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.
"Just from the start, from every moment, from the fans chanting his name to seeing the numbers every time Giannis' team run on the floor you seen the 24. He was definitely here."
The 69th edition of the midseason showcase provided a perfect stage for the NBA world to celebrate the life and legacy of Kobe Bryant, at an event that became synonymous with the Black Mamba.
The game itself, which Bryant last year said should 'be the best pick-up game in the world' turned into exactly that as Team LeBron edged Team Giannis 157-155 with a frantic fourth-quarter finish that felt more like a playoff game, than an All-Star Game.
"I think the best way we could honor Kobe, Gigi, and everyone involved was to play like we played, you know what I mean?" Chris Paul said.
"Me and Russ [Russell Westbrook] kept talking about it, that's one thing about Kobe, whenever he was on our team in the All-Star Game, there wasn't none of that cool stuff. There wasn't none of that. It was like, as long as they throw the ball up, let's get to it."
And 'get to it' they did.
Kawhi Leonard, a pupil and friend of Bryant's who trained together in the off-season was fittingly named the inaugural Kobe Byrant All-Star Game MVP for his 30-point effort for Team LeBron. The award which Bryant himself won a record four times, was named in his honour by the NBA.
"It means a lot to me," Leonard said. "You know, words can't even explain, making this the first Kobe Bryant MVP trophy. I want to thank Kobe for everything he's done for me. All the long talks and workouts. Thank you. This one's for him."
"Thank you. This one's for him." 💜💛- NBA (@NBA) February 17, 2020
Kawhi Leonard thanks the late Kobe Bryant upon winning the first-ever Kia NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award. pic.twitter.com/o8YS1jLRy9
Both teams wore jersey patches featuring nine stars in honour of the victims of the helicopter crash which claimed the lives of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers. Team Giannis wore "24'' - Bryant's jersey number, while Team LeBron wore "2'' in honour of Gianna.
Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson opened the festivities with an 8-second moment of silence in honour of Byrant and former Commissioner David Stern.
"We'll never see another basketball player quite like Kobe," Johnson said, encouraging the crowd to embrace their neighbours, with the players on stage holding hands in a touching tribute.
"We need to embrace each other at this tough time - Kobe would've wanted that.''
.@MagicJohnson leads an 8-second moment of silence for Kobe Bryant and David Stern before the #NBAAllStar game ✊ pic.twitter.com/WM7o6kiaTF- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 17, 2020
Chicago-native Jennifer Hudson, dressed in a full-length Laker purple dress, delivered an incredible rendition of "For All We Know," as images of Bryant's life flashed on the screen behind her.
.@IAMJHUD delivers a powerful pregame performance to honor Kobe #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/XwdSes5w97- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 17, 2020
Chants of "Kobe, Kobe" broke out around the arena as the crowd applauded.
Rapper, Common, who provided his soulful sounds throughout the weekend, delivered a powerful tribute to his hometown of Chicago and Bryant, dubbed "If This City Could Talk," speaking to the dreams and inspiration Bryant provided everyone around him and from afar.
"You see he used his game to touch the world's soul," Common said. "A king named Kobe Bryant who wore purple and gold."
"Twenty-four hours a day you put in the work, forget the salary, being in Chicago, you can possess that Mamba Mentality."
With his song 'The Light' playing in the background, Common continued, "And that's dedciation and that's the fight, so even in the darkest times, you'll feel Kobe's light."
.@common opened the #NBAAllStarGame with a tribute to the city of Chicago and Kobe Bryant.- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 17, 2020
At half-time, Chicago native Chance the Rapper performed alongside DJ Khaled, Quavo and Lil Wayne, delivering a spirited tribute to Bryant as images oft he Laker legend projected behind him.
.@chancetherapper pays tribute to Kobe and Gianna Bryant during his #NBAAllStar halftime performance. pic.twitter.com/L0HX2hsWi8- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 17, 2020
Between the on-stage performances, the jersey tributes and the Bryant-like intensity of the contest, the 2020 NBA All-Star Game gave everyone a chance to celebrate a man that has given the game and the world so much.
"I think it's been amazing, and I'm happy to be a part of it this weekend," LeBron James added.
"Obviously, me being a Los Angeles Laker myself, it's going to be a part of me for the rest of my life and our franchise, and any player to ever wear purple and gold until the end of basketball, which is never. So it's a beautiful time. It's a beautiful day. And his presence was felt here in Chicago."