Jimmy Kimmel couldn't hold back his tears as he took the stage at the Staples Center on Monday to help guide the memorial service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, as well as to honor the seven other victims who died in a helicopter crash last month.
"Well, you picked the wrong person to guide you through this, I’m going to tell you that right now," Kimmel told the packed venue. "I want to thank everyone for being here and thank you for gathering to celebrate the lives of Alyssa Altobelli and her parents, John and Keri Altobelli, Payton Chester, her mother, Sarah Chester, Christine Mauser, Ara Zobayan, Gigi Bryant and her father, Kobe Bryant."
"This is a sad day but it is also a celebration of life, of their lives and of life itself in the building where those of us are Lakers fans and Kobe fans celebrated some of the best times of our lives," Kimmel said, fighting back tears. "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."
Kimmel continued, "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., but across the country, in Kobe's hometown, Philadelphia, in Italy, in India, Philippines, China, New York, Phoenix, Boston, for god's sake. In places where he would be booed on the court, Kobe is missed."
Kimmel further called out the Lakers' rivalry against the Boston Celtics, noting, "Even the great Boston Celtic Bill Russell wore number 24 to yesterday's game."
He quipped, "I knew he would come to us eventually."
Kimmel then admitted that he's been struggling to find something positive to say on such a sad day. "Today we are joined by Kobe’s teammates and opponents alike, his friends and family and his fans as we try to make sense of what has happened to these nine beautiful people, who were by all accounts so full of life -- who left behind parents, friends, coworkers, classmates, siblings and children," he said. "I’ve been trying to come up with something positive to take away from this and it’s hard because there isn’t much, but the best thing I was able to come up with is this: gratitude. It seems to me that all we can do is be grateful for the time that we had with them and for the time that we have left with each other and that’s all."
Kimmel then asked those at the memorial service to take a "moment to hug or shake hands with the people around" them. "Since we are here today to celebrate, I’d like to invite you here right now to take a moment to say hello to the people around you, whether you know them or not," he said. "To be grateful for life and for the fact that we are all here together."
After someone in the crowd yelled, "We love you, Kobe," the crowd erupted into a "Kobe" chant.
At the end of the service, Kimmel told the audience to "hug the people you love."