Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, tragically died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. A total of nine died in the crash, including Ara Zobayan, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Gianna's teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, and their parents Keri and John Altobelli.
When the news broke, there was an outpouring of support from fans and celebrities alike. Former president Barack Obama was among those to publicly mourn the loss of Kobe and Gianna. "Those of us who have had the joy and privilege of being parents and taking kids to ballgames, and then rooting for our children, and seeing our dreams and hopes passed on to them. Nothing is more heartbreaking," said Obama.
The NBA has also honored the life of the Lakers legend, renaming the All-Star Game MVP award in honor of him. LeBron James, in an eloquent eulogy, tearfully paid tribute to his friend. While Vanessa Bryant shared a heartbreaking post about how much she will miss her "angels" Kobe and Gianna.
Fans and family came together on Monday (Feb. 24) to mourn the loss at the Staples Center with a public memorial service. While tickets sold out, and those without a ticket have been told to keep away from the Staples Center, the Celebration of Life event is streaming online for those who couldn't make it. Before the service kicked off, Nike shared a touching tribute to his career, detailing some of his biggest achievements.
The stream is available through the Los Angeles Lakers YouTube channel, but TIDAL and the Los Angeles Times also provided free streams for the service. Other options for viewing include ABC7, Fox 11, NBA TV, CBS All Access, CNN, and BET among others.
Attendees inside the Staples Center received a booklet featuring touching photos of Kobe with his daughter Gianna. The back of it also featured a quote from Kobe. "Lastly to our daughters... You guys know that if you do the work, you work hard enough, dreams come true. You know that," it reads. But hopefully what you get from tonight is that those times when you get up early and you work hard; those times when you stay up late and you work hard; those times when you don't feel like working—you're too tired, you don't want to push yourself—but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream. That's the dream. It's not the destination, it's the journey."
The service kicked off with a performance of "XO" from Beyoncé. "I'm here because I love Kobe, and this was one of his favorite songs," she said as she ran the song back. Bey followed it up with a powerful rendition of "Halo." After she left the stage, a shaky Jimmy Kimmel took to the stage to pay his respects.
"This is a sad day, but it is also a celebration of their lives and life itself," he said. "I don't think any of us could have imagined this. Everywhere you go, you see his face, his number. Gigi's face, her number... In places he would be booed on the court, he is missed." While tearful, he took moments during his speech to lighten the mood. He then welcomed Vanessa Bryant to the stage, with the whole of Staples Center standing to show their support.
"First, I'd like to thank everyone for coming today," she said, struggling to keep it together. "Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul. She was always thoughtful," she continued after taking a moment to compose herself. "Kobe and Gianna naturally gravitated towards each other. She had Kobe's ability to listen to a song and have all the lyrics memorized after listening to the song a couple of times. It was their secret talent."
Vanessa highlighted the promising future Gigi had in the WNBA. "She was competitive like her dad but Gianna had a sweet grace. Her smile was like sunshine," she said. "She was very maternal since she was really little. Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA. She would have made a huge difference for women's basketball. Gigi was motivated to change the way everyone viewed women."
"Now for my soulmate," she said, as she started to talk about Kobe. Vanessa described Kobe as "the perfect husband," noting just how caring he was for their children. "He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe. He was charismatic, a gentleman. He was loving, adoring. He was truly the romantic one in our relationship," she added. "God knew they couldn’t be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together."
Following Vanessa's speech, Kimmel returned to the stage to introduce WNBA legend Diana Taurasi, whom Kobe called the White Mamba. During her emotional speech, she took a brief moment to playfully take a jab at LeBron James. "I mean who has a turnaround fadeaway jumper at 11? LeBron barely got it today," she joked.
Oregon Ducks point guard Sabrina Ionescu took the stage next. "He was giving me the blueprint. He was giving Gigi the same blueprint," Ionescu said, adding that she has found herself texting Kobe's number still expecting him to respond.
University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma also took to the stage to talk about his experiences with Kobe, focusing on how much he supported Gianna. He remarked that Kobe was "uncoachable," and joked that he was worried when the Lakers legend wanted to coach Gigi. "Number 24, number 8, and number 2. Those are basketball numbers. Those are numbers in the past. Those are numbers that we’re not gonna get back," he said.
Kobe's agent and close friend, Rob Pelinka, spoke about texting him as he was riding on the helicopter prior to the crash. "For the last two decades, Kobe and I talked or texted every single day, because that's what best friends do. Kobe was asking me if I knew a certain agent based in Southern California," he said. "Kobe texted back, explaining his desire to help a friend of his secure a baseball agency internship for one of his young daughters. Kobe vouched for the girl's character, intellect, and work ethic. He clearly wanted to champion a bright future for her. I texted Kobe right back and said I would put a plan in motion to help him get that. Kobe's last human act was heroic. He wanted to use his platform to bless and shape a young girl's future."
The celebration's next performer was Alicia Keys, who played Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," which was one of Kobe and Gigi's favorite musicial pieces.
Shortly after, an emotional Michael Jordan spoke about how he wanted to be the "best big brother" to Kobe. "We were very close friends," he said, before adding that he was initially a "nuisance." With tears streaming down his face, Jordan joked that he's going to become another crying meme after today. "When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died."
Shaq followed Jordan, telling a story about the day Kobe earned his respect. "The guys were complaining, 'Shaq, Kobe's not passing the ball.' I said, 'I'll talk to him,'" he said. "I said, 'Kobe, there's no I in team' and Kobe said, 'I know but there's an M-E in that motherfucker.'" Christina Aguilera provided the last performance of the memorial, offering a rendition of "Ave Maria."
Wrapping up the event, Kimmel came on stage to introduce the Oscar-winning short, Dear Basketball. He thanked everyone for coming, and urged attendees to donate to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation. As the lights came on, the crowd chanted for Kobe.