For Jimmy Kimmel, who considered the Los Angeles Lakers star a friend and personal hero, a simple tribute wasn't going to be enough. Instead, Kimmel dedicated the entire night to Bryant and to the moments they shared over the last two decades.
Kimmel explained that he chose not to film in front of a studio audience "because going forward with a comedy show didn't feel right, considering what happened yesterday." Instead, he decided to address viewers directly.
"[Kobe] was the last person you could ever imagine something like this happening to. He was so strong and so handsome and smart and energetic. He was a hero," Kimmel shared. "And when I say that I don't mean a hero like real heros like firefighters or doctors and nurses who actually save lives. I don't mean to compare what he did for a living to what they do… but Kobe was a hero in the way Superman was a hero. He was so big it was almost like he was a fictional character. He was a real-life superhero with a costume and everything walking among us."
Kimmel said that so many people loved Bryant for his dedication, passion, determination and drive, which served as an inspiration for so many.
"We also loved him because he was ours. We watched him grow up," Kimmel added, referring to his iconic status, especially in Los Angeles. "He came to L.A. when he was a teenager, and unlike almost every other superstar athlete, he never left. In his career, he only wore two uniforms -- for the Lakers and for the United States Olympic team."
"This was a terrible loss for those families, for the Lakers, for Kobe's teammates, for his fans. There's no silver lining here. It's all bad, it's all sad," Kimmel shared, fighting back tears. "He was a bright light, and that's how I want to remember him."
He was on the show 15 times, we had many fun and interesting conversations, and tonight we are going to share some of those to remember him," Kimmel said.
The Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon broke down in tears as he opened the show with a wonderful memory from his first time meeting Bryant.
"Kobe was such a life force, so strong and creative and inspired, that in my head I thought he was going to live forever," Fallon said. "I met Kobe when he was 17 and I was 21. He was a rookie on the Lakers, and I was just starting out in the comedy scene in L.A. and we were at a party and we didn't know anyone at the party so we just started talking... we got along, and hit it off."
Fallon explained how the pair went on a beer run and ended up saving the party after a fun adventure together.
"Kobe went on to become a legend, five NBA titles, two Olympic Gold Medals, 18 All-Star appearances," Fallon explained. "[He was] one of the most brilliant and most respected players in NBA history."
"When we'd run into each other over the years, we'd laugh about that night that we first met," Fallon continued, fighting back tears. "We'd laugh about all the good things that had happened since. And we'd laugh about how much fun it was to raise kids and all the stupid mistakes we made trying to figure out how to be good dads. Kobe had four daughters and I had two daughters, and today he and one of his girls are gone."
"I think I knew Kobe well enough to know he rose to any challenge by digging deeper and getting back to work, so let's honor Kobe, Gianna and the other lives that were lost yesterday by following his example. Love your family, love your teammates, and outwork everyone else in the gym," he concluded. "To Vanessa and all those affected by this tragedy, we love you and we will always be there for all of you," Fallon concluded. "And Kobe, when we meet again, we're going on a beer run."
Conan O'Brien also honored Bryant, taking a moment to highlight another aspect of Kobe's talent. "He was naturally very funny and charming," the Conan host shared.
"A superstar does not have to be a great guest, but he just was. Whenever he was on our show, he was a joy to talk with and he always had the audience in the palm of his hand," O'Brien recalled. "That's the guy I've been thinking about these past 24 hours, and it's that memory I would like to share with you tonight."
James Corden opened The Late Late Show with remarks about the NBA icon, and said, "It didn't feel real when I heard it, and it's so unspeakably sad."
"There are some athletes that transcend their sports before you ever even get a chance to see them play, and Kobe Bryant was one of those athletes," Corden recalled.
"Our hearts break at this tragedy. Our thoughts and our love go out to Kobe's wife, and to his children, his family and friends. We mourn the other seven people on that helicopter, whose loss is no less profound, and our hearts go out to their friends and their families too," Corden continued. "I wish I could say something to make sense of it all, but I can't find the words. All I can say is this: If you can, take a moment, tonight or tomorrow, to call up someone you love and just let them know."
Corden also paid tribute on the Late Late Show stage, displaying Bryant's famous jersey numbers, 8 and 24, on the marquee above his side-stage, where Corden usually performs his opening monologue.
See the video below for more on Bryant's celebrated life and the outpouring of grief, memorials and tributes that have been shared following the tragedy.