Stars came out in droves to the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 24, 2020 for the "Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" service, honoring the former L.A. Lakers star and his 13-year-old daughter. The special memorial ceremony was put on by the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe's Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, and though the Staples Center seats 20,000 people, many more were seen outside of the venue ahead of the memorial. Kobe, Gianna and seven others -- John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan -- were killed in a tragic helicopter crash last month. See how they were honored and who came out to memorialize the victims of the tragic helicopter crash by clicking through the gallery.
Fans arrived by the thousands to Staples Center, all clad in Lakers gold and purple and Kobe's numbers, "8" and "24."
Los Angeles is known for its car culture, so it should be no surprise that automobiles outside Staples Center were elaborately decorated in Kobe's honor, including one purple-and-yellow vehicle that featured the NBA star with angel wings.
Jennifer Lopez, who attended the service with fiancé Alex Rodriguez, posted a photo of her nails to Instagram. A beige hue was covered in gold flecks on most nails save for her two pointer fingers, which read "2" and "24" in honor of Kobe and Gianna. During the memorial, the couple were seated next to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Inside Staples Center, 35,000 red roses surrounded the stage. The entire stadium was illuminated in Laker-purple lights, with the rose-encircled podium at the center next to a section separated by more roses for the family and friends of Kobe and Gianna.
Photos Through the Years
Before the ceremony began, photos of Kobe and Gianna flashed on Staples Center's jumbotron.
Beyoncé Sings Her Heart Out
Taking the stage, Beyoncé set an emotional bar for the event with "XO." "I'm here because I love Kobe and this was one of his favorite songs," she said while momentarily halting the performance. "So I want to start that over, so we can do it all together and he can hear the love."
Following "XO," Beyoncé segued into a powerful rendition of"Halo," backed by a choir and orchestral accompaniment. "Halo don't fade away, halo don't fade away," she belted out, tweaking the lyrics to pay tribute to Kobe and Gianna and ending by blowing a kiss toward the sky.
Memories of Kobe
Following Beyoncé's performance, a compilation video of some of Black Mamba's biggest moments on the court played along to Maroon 5's "Memories." The tribute looked back on his life and career in his own words, as well as clips of Kobe and Gianna bonding over their love of basketball and their competitive spirits. It was very quiet inside the Staples Centers as attendees watched video of Kobe talking about Gigi playing basketball, then rose to their feet as the service began.
Kobe's Parents Honor Their Son
Joe and Pam Bryant were there as well, and as a highlight reel of Gigi played, Shaquille O'Neal hugged Kobe's father.
Jimmy Kimmel, a good friend of the Bryant family, was asked to guide guests through the ceremony. In his speech, he summed up the day with one word: "gratitude." "I don't think any of us could have imagined this. Everywhere you go, you see his face, his number, Gigi's face, Gigi's number, everywhere at every intersection. There are hundreds of murals painted by artists who are inspired not because he's a basketball player but because Kobe was an artist too. And not just in L.A. too, but across the country, in Kobe's hometown, Philadelphia, in Italy, in India, Philippines, China, New York, Phoenix, Boston, for god's sake," the late-night talk show host said in part. "In places where he would be booed on the court, Kobe is missed. Even the great Boston Celtic Bill Russell wore number 24 to yesterday's game. I knew he would come to us eventually. Today we are joined by Kobe's teammates and opponents alike, his family, friends, and fans, as we try to make sense of what happened to these nine beautiful people who by all accounts were so full of life."
"Be grateful for life and the fact that we are all here together," he concluded his speech, during which time Vanessa Bryant and daughter Natalia were holding hands.
Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson sat in the same row as current Lakers player Anthony Davis.
Thank You, Kobe
Plenty of Bryant jerseys were spotted at Staples Center, as were custom tees.
An outpouring of love followed Vanessa Bryant up to the stage as she paid tribute to her daughter, Gigi, and husband, Kobe. "God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other," Vanessa ended her speech. "He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi, and I got Nani, Bibi and Coco. We're still the best team. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven, until we meet again."
Carrying on Gigi and Kobe's Legacy
WNBA superstar Diana Taurasi -- whom Kobe bestowed the nickname White Mamba -- took the mic next, opening up about her special bond with Kobe, who went from being her favorite player to watch to a close personal friend and mentor, who "made this little girl believe she could be a Laker one day." "Every single workout, I end the same way -- with the Kobe game-winner," she told the crowd, detailing the exact shot -- which also won her Phoenix Mercury a WNBA championship. "The same passion we all recognized in Kobe, obviously Gigi inherited… Gigi was in the midst of the best times of a basketball player's career -- no responsibilities, no expectations, just having fun with your friends."
Taurasi, who previously lauded Kobe as an important advocate for women's sports, opened up about how Kobe's love for Gigi renewed his love for basketball and recalling when the basketball star brought his daughter to see her in the WNBA locker room. "I'll always remember the look on Gigi's face," she said, tearing up. "It was a look of excitement, a look of belonging, a look of fierce determination."
Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union both looked emotional in the stands. Some of his famous friends also assembled included Ciara and Russell Wilson, Magic Johnson, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Byron Scott and Phil Jackson.
Legend Honors a Legend
Michael Jordan was spotted inside the memorial.
Kardashians Step Out
Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West, Khloe Kardashian and Kris Jenner somberly sat next to each other on the court.
Kobe Is Everywhere
Outside the arena, a fan wearing a "Los Lakers" No. 24 jersey held up a yellow-and-purple Lakers scarf with Kobe's name on it.
Flowers for the Bryants
Beautiful bouquets lined the sidewalks around Staples Center.
NBA Support Then...
Scottie Pippen was just one of the many former NBA all-stars in attendance...
... And Now
... as were current players Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Steph Curry and AC Green.
Sabrina Ionescu on Gianna
Sabrina Ionescu, the standout star of the Oregon women's basketball team and Gianna's mentor, also came to the stage. "A year ago, my team was playing at USC. The morning of the game, our coach told us there was a surprise for the day," she said. "The game starts, and shortly after, Kobe walks in with his daughter, Gianna, and two of her teammates. That was the first time I met Kobe... He said, and I'll never forget, 'Don't shoot yourselves in the foot.' He meant don't settle. Keep grinding." Gianna, Ionescu continued, was the future of women's basketball. "I loved watching how hard she worked and how much her teammates loved her," she shared. "I wanted to be part of the generation that changed basketball for Gigi and her teammates… 'You have too much to give to be silent.' That's what he said. That's what he believed."
When Geno Auriemma, head coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies women's basketball team, took the stage, he spoke not just to Gigi's dream to one day play for his storied program, but also as a father, a legend in the world of women's sports and a fellow Italian. The legendary coach also praised Kobe's "original team" -- his family. "How ironic that he would talk to me about coaching -- the uncoachable one wants to know about coaching," Auriemma recalled, noting that when Kobe came to him for advice about coaching Gigi's team, he teased him when she passed the ball when she was open. "I thought, she’s not listening to her father."
Kobe's BFF Speaks of Kobe's Heroism
Rob Pelinka -- the current general manager of the Lakers, Kobe's best friend and former agent and Gigi's godfather -- next took the mic, starting by saying, "The world knows Kobe as a basketball legend. I've been blessed for 20 years of knowing him as so much more." Pelinka shared a story of Kobe reaching out to him to secure an internship for a friend's daughter. It would be their final interaction. "Kobe's last human act was heroic. He wanted to bless and shape a young girl's future," he said, recalling the late NBA great's texts from the fatal helicopter ride. "Hasn't Kobe done that for all of us?"
Alicia Keys Performs 'Moonlight Sonata'
After Rob Pelinka shared the story of Kobe missing his wife and their children so much during a long trip away that he learned to play Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" by ear, Alicia Keys took the stage to share her rendition of the classical movement. Keys, who was tasked with hosting the GRAMMY Awards at the Staples Center on the night news broke of Kobe's death, wore a diamond-encrusted purple suit and Kobe pin as she played the piano alongside a string ensemble. After stepping offstage, Keys stopped to speak to Vanessa and Natalia, kneeling down to hold Vanessa’s hands. Kimmel joked afterward, "I have to believe that Kobe is looking down from Heaven and saying, 'I am determined to learn to play 'Moonlight Sonata' better than Alicia Keys.'"
Retired Numbers Fly High
The NBA All-Star's numbers, "8" and "24," were retired in 2017 and have hung high at Staples Center since. They were spotlighted during the celebration of Gianna and Kobe.
Michael Jordan Cries Over His 'Little Brother'
The Chicago Bulls legend was emotional from the first moment of his speech, addressing the crowd with tears running down his face -- and a well-timed joked about "another crying meme." " Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I," Michael Jordan said. "I just wanted to talk about Kobe." In the debates over the best NBA player of all time, Jordan's claim to the top spot has rarely been threatened -- but Kobe is the one who has come the closest, and the NBA great laughed about his "little brother" who evolved from a "nuisance" to a beloved friend in his life. "What he accomplished as a basketball player, as a businessman, and a storyteller, and as a father… Kobe left nothing in the tank. He left it all on the floor," Jordan recalled. "This kid had passion like you would never know."
"What Kobe Bryant was to me, was the inspiration that someone truly cared about the way that I played the game or the way he wanted to play the game," he added as Vanessa put her arm around daughter Natalia in the crowd. Jordan never played on a team with Kobe, but the two legendary players squared off in a total of eight games prior to Jordan's retirement in 2003. "And as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be. When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died," Jordan concluded. "I promise you, from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing I had a little brother who I tried to help in any way I could. Please rest in peace, little brother."
SoCal Stands Strong
Long Beach native Snoop Dogg suited up for the memorial.
Shaq hugged Vanessa as he got offstage.
Christina Aguilera Sings 'Ave Maria'
Christina Aguilera became something of a good luck charm during the Lakers 2010 championship run, singing the national anthem before the tide-turning game six against the Boston Celtics, a series they ultimately went on to win four games to three, with Kobe as the Finals MVP. The pop star took the stage next to perform "Ave Maria," alongside a harp and a string ensemble. Jimmy Kimmel thanked her for the "beautiful" rendition in Italian, and Christina blew a kiss to Kobe's family as she stepped offstage.
Olympian Michael Phelps and his wife, Nicole Johnson, sat in the fifth row.
'Dear Basketball' Screens
Following 'Ava Maria,' Jimmy Kimmel spoke to the crowd about Kobe's post-basketball aspirations. "He wanted to make movies, and, of course, because he is Kobe Bryant, the first movie he made won an Oscar," the host joked before screening Bryant's animated short film, Dear Basketball. Kobe's father wiped away tears as the Academy Award-winning animation played. The film was adapted from the farewell letter that Kobe penned for The Player's Tribune, announcing his retirement from the NBA in November 2015. After winning the Oscar just two years ago, Kobe was honored first during the "In Memoriam" segment during this year's ceremony.
Lean on Me
Beyoncé leaned into a teary Vanessa during the memorial service.
'A Celebration of Life' Comes to an End
Jimmy Kimmel closed out the ceremony with more tears and thanked Vanessa. "We love you. We love your kids. We'll pray for you," he said of both the Bryants and the other families affected by the tragedy. "Don't forget: Work hard and hug the people you love." On the floor, players embraced and greeted each other as other attendees, including Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez, stood to file out and another impromptu chant for Kobe began.
Dressing Up for Kobe
A fan got all dolled up in a ruffled, indigo gown covered in Kobe imagery and a "Black Mamba" sash.
JAY-Z and Diana Taurasi spoke after the celebration concluded.