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LA Lakers’ Kobe Bryant tribute draws big audience for ESPN

The Los Angeles Lakers’ first game following the death of Kobe Bryant, against the Portland Trail Blazers on January 31, averaged 4.41m viewers on ESPN, according to Nielsen figures.

It was the fourth-largest audience for a National Basketball Association game this season and more than double ESPN’s viewership average for NBA games so far this season. It was also the second-most watched regular-season NBA game ever on ESPN.

The pre-game tribute to Bryant – who died along with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in California last month – averaged 5.23m viewers and peaked at 6.07m. Additionally, Friday’s ESPN Hoop Streams digital pregame show, which is aired on ESPN.com, the ESPN app as well as Twitter and YouTube, had a record 2.4m views.

The game against Portland was the Lakers’ first following Bryant’s death after the team postponed a scheduled game against the Los Angeles Clippers on January 28.

The global sports world remains in mourning for Bryant, with tributes to the Lakers legend being paid at Super Bowl LIV and on the PGA Tour, as well as other places, over the weekend. It was announced last week that this year’s NBA All-Star Game in Chicago will honor Bryant and Gianna in a number of ways.

On Monday (February 3), the messages, flowers, candles, and other gifts that were laid outside Staples Center for Bryant and his daughter were removed. They will be given to Bryant’s wife Vanessa and her family.