Basketball: LeBron James honours Kobe Bryant with new tattoo

NBA superstar LeBron James has ensured he never forgets friend Kobe Bryant, with a new tattoo of the Los Angeles Lakers legend on his left quad. 

On Friday (NZ time), TMZ released photos of James, who currently plays for the 16-time NBA champions, during a Lakers practice session with new ink on his leg.

The tattoo is still covered in a cling-film product, but appears to be a black mamba - the quick-moving snake that became Bryant's nickname. Script under the image appears to read 'Kobe 4 Life' or his signature. 

On Thursday, James posted an Instagram video from a tattoo parlor, alongside Lakers teammate Anthony Davis, who appeared to be getting a similar tattoo. 

The TMZ report suggests James will reveal the design on his Instagram page, before the Lakers face the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on Saturday - their first outing since Bryant's tragic death. 

Bryant, 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash in the Los Angeles hills on Monday.

They were traveling to the Mamba Academy for a basketball game, when the crash occurred. 

The Lakers were due to face their inner-city rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, on Wednesday, but the fixture was postponed. 

No current Lakers players have spoken publicly on Bryant's death, but James posted an emotional tribute on his Instagram page. 

"I'm not ready, but here I go," James wrote. "Man, I sitting here trying to write something for this post, but every time I try, I begin crying again, just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had. 

"I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning, before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn't think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we'd have.

"WTF!! I'm heartbroken and devastated my brother!!

"Man, I love you, big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids.

"I promise you I'll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here, especially #LakerNation, and it's my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!!

"Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here!

"There's so much more I want to say, but just can't right now, because I can't get through it! Until we meet again, my brother!!"

Just two days earlier, James had passed Bryant for third among the NBA's all-time leading pointscorers.

Meanwhile, the NBA has honoured Bryant with major changes to the All-Star Game format.

The league is turning every quarter of the All-Star Game into an abbreviated contest for charity and the scores will be reset to zero at the start of the second and third quarters.

The scores will then be restored to begin an untimed fourth quarter, which is when the tribute to Bryant begins.

The winning team will be the first to reach a target score, determined by the cumulative points of the leading team over the first three quarters - plus 24, which was Bryant's jersey number for the last decade of his NBA career.

For example, if one team is leading by a score of 100-90, the target score would be 124.