Kobe and Gianna Bryant's 'Celebration of Life' Memorial: Every Moment from the Emotional Ceremony
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Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna Bryant, were remembered by fans around the world on Monday.
A Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, a memorial ceremony put on by the L.A. Lakers and Kobe's Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, paid tribute to the late NBA legend and his 13-year-old daughter. 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.
The event took place at Los Angeles' Staples Center, affectionately known as "the house that Kobe built," where the basketball legend spent most of his 20-year NBA career playing for the Lakers. The date of the memorial itself, 2/24/20, holds special significance: It represents both Gianna and Kobe’s jersey numbers, with 20 representing both the amount of years he spent as a Laker and how long he and wife Vanessa were together.
Jimmy Kimmel Pays Thanks as 'A Celebration of Life' Comes to an End12:33 PM:
Kimmel closed out the ceremony with more tears and thanks to Vanessa Bryant. "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 each other as other attendees stood to file out, another impromptu chant for Kobe breaking out.
Love You Always, Kobe12:31 PM:
Following Aguilera's performance, 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 Academy Award-winning animated short film, Dear Basketball.
Kobe's father wiped away tears as Dear Basketball screened, the short ending with narration from its subject: "Love you always, Kobe."
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.
Christina Aguilera Performs 'Ave Maria' in Tribute12:25 PM:
Aguilera became something of a good luck charm during the Lakers 2010 championship run, singing the national anthem before the tide-turning Finals Game 6 against the Celtics. (The Lakers went on to win the series, with Kobe named MVP.)
During the memorial, she took the stage to sing "Ave Maria," blowing a kiss to Kobe's family following the performance. "Thank you, Christina, that was beautiful," Kimmel said afterward. "And in Italian, as well!".
Shaquille O'Neal Shares His Favorite Memories of Kobe12:20 PM:
Shaq and Kobe played together on the Lakers from 1996-2004, winning three consecutive NBA championships. "Kobe was truly a gifted and intelligent student of the game. I remember him saying, 'These guys are playing checkers and I'm out here playing chess,'" O'Neal said onstage. "I said, 'I guess so, Kobe. I don't know how to play chess.'"
The pair were notoriously contentious during their time on the court, but mended their relationship in recent years, and Shaq has been one of the most outspoken and emotional teammates to memorialize Kobe following his death. "As most of you know, Kobe and I had a complicated relationship throughout the years," O'Neal acknowledged, comparing their dynamic to Lennon and McCartney. "We never took it seriously. In truth, Kobe and I always maintained a deep respect and love for each other."
Recalling a time teammates asked him to confront Kobe about not passing, O'Neal remembered, "I said, there's no I in team, and he said, 'Yeah, but there's a M-E in that mothef**ker." Vanessa and Natalie smiled from their seats. Promising to teach Kobe's daughters all of his moves -- "but not my free-throw techniques" -- O'Neall ended, "Kobe, you're heaven's MVP."
Michael Jordan Cries Over "Little Brother" Kobe, Jokes About Crying Michael Jordan Meme12:08 AM:
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," Jordan said. "I just wanted to talk about Kobe."
"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. 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."
Alicia Keys' Performance of 'Moonlight Sonata' Has Special Meaning to Kobe11:58 AM:
After Rob Pelinka shared the story of Kobe so missing his wife, Vanessa, and their children during a long trip way 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.
"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,'" Kimmel joked good-naturedly afterward.
Lakers GM Rob Pelinka Speaks About His Best Friend and Goddaughter11:38 AM:
Rob Pelinka, the current general manager of the Lakers, next took the mic. "Before that, he was Kobe's agents and one of Kobe's best friends and godfather to Gigi," Kimmel added in introduction of Pelinka, who began, "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. "Hasn't Kobe done that for all of us?"
"The day after Kobe was gone, I was at home feeling totally lost. I couldn't imagine life without the strength and guidance of my best friend..." Pelinka sought solace in one of the books Kobe wrote, The Wizenard Series, and an inscription from the author: "'To RP, my brother, may you always remember to enjoy the road, especially when it's a hard one. Love, Kobe' Kobe wrote these words to me just a few months ago, now I realize maybe they were meant for us all."
About Gianna, Pelinka said, "She was literally everything in the world that was good." He concluded, "I love you, dear Kobe and precious Gigi."
Geno Auriemma on Coach Kobe and Gigi's Dream of Playing for UConn11:32 AM:
Geno Auriemma, head coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies women's basketball team, took the stage next, and 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.
"There's some amazing women in this room, aren't there? You just heard from three of them," Auriemma began. "A lot of people are gonna talk about basketball today. I don't know that that's why I'm here… There's too many thoughts in my head, too many things that made me realize that I'm here as a father."
The legendary coach then 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."
He also recalled how, when Gigi visited UConn, Kobe stepped back to let her have her moment in the spotlight. "That's an incredible thing, as a parent, to be able to do."
Sabrina Ionescu Calls Gianna the 'Future' of Women's Basketball11:20 AM:
"Mentors know no gender or race, they just know they're here to help," the announcer said in introducing Sabrina Ionescu, the standout star of the Oregon women's basketball team and Gianna's mentor. "Growing up, I only knew one way to play the game of basketball: Fierce," she began.
"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," Ionescu 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."
Diana Taurasi Promises to Carry on Gigi and Kobe's Legacy in Women's Sports11:17 AM:
WNBA superstar Diana Taurasi 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."
Vanessa Bryant Shares Memories of Her Soulmate, Kobe11:08 AM:
"Now my soul mate," Vanessa continued. "The greatest of all time, an Oscar-winner and the Black Mamba... But to me, he was Kob Kob, my bae boo, my papi chulo. We balanced each other out. He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man who loved me as much as Kobe."
"He was truly the romantic one in our relationship," she said, revealing he was the one who looked forward to Valentine's Day and their anniversary. "He gifted me the actual notebook and the blue dress that Rachel McAdams wore in The Notebook movie... We had hoped to grow old together like the movie. We truly had an incredible love story."
Vanessa talked about how Kobe took over carpool duties when he retired from the NBA and the future they imaged as "fun" grandparents. "He had a tender heart," she said. He loved being Gianna's basketball coach, both that she followed in his footsteps and because he got to spend even more time with her. And though Vanessa noted all of the moments that Kobe will miss in their daughters' lives, she said, "I want my daughters to know and remember the great husband, father and man he was."
"God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other," Vanessa "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."
Vanessa Bryant Remembers Her Daughter and Best Friend, Gigi10:55 AM:
Introduced as "the woman that Kobe and Gigi loved most," Vanessa Bryant took the stage to a standing ovation. "Thank you all so much for being here, it means so much to us," she began, visibly composing herself before starting with remarks about "my baby girl."
"[Gianna] was always thoughtful, she always kissed me goodnight and kissed me good morning," she remembered. "She was Daddy's girl, but I know she loved her mama, and she would always tell me and show me how much she loved me. She was one of my very best friends."
Vanessa remembered her second-eldest daughter as a bright young girl who was looking forward to moving on to the same high school as her big sister, the family "shepherd" who loved vacationing together and family movie nights.
"She was competitive like her daddy, but Gianna had a sweet grace about her," she added. "She loved helping and teaching other people things. At school, she offered to give the boy's basketball team some pointers -- like the triangle offense."
"I miss her sweet kisses, I miss her cleverness," Vanessa concluded, noting that her youngest daughter, Capri, reminds her of her big sister. "Gigi was sunshine. She brightened up my day, every day."
Vanessa broke down as she mourned the loss of Gianna's bright future as a wife, mother, and aspiring WNBA player. "I'm still so proud of Gianna. She made a difference and was kind in the 13 years she was here on earth…I cannot imagine life without her."
Jimmy Kimmel's Opening Remarks Elicit Tears and Cheers10:45 AM:
Late night host Jimmy Kimmel served as the emcee for the event, opening the service by reading the names of the victims of the helicopter crash and with an emotional thanks to the fans and family gathered to celebrate the lives lost. "This is a sad day but it is also a celebration of life… in the building where so many of us who are Lakers fans celebrated so many of the best times of our lives."
"I don't think any of us could have imagined this," Kimmel added, breaking into tears. "Everywhere you go, you see his face, his number, Gigi face, Gigi's number. Everywhere, at every intersection."
The crowd's first applause break came for Celtics legend Bill Russell, who Kimmel noted wore a Lakers No. 24 jersey in Kobe's honor "I knew he would come to us eventually," Kimmel joked.
"It seems that all we can do is be grateful, for the time we had with them, and for the time we have left together," Kimmel said, before leading the crowd in welcoming those around them. "I love you, Kobe!" came a cry from the crowd, leading to a spontaneous cheer of "Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!"
Vanessa Bryant Sits Front Row for 'A Celebration'10:38 AM:
Vanessa is seated next to her her mother, Sofia, sister Sophie and eldest daughter, Natalia, 17, at the front of the service. The three emotionally leaned on each other as Beyoncé sang, and with a tissue in hand, Vanessa wiped away tears following the performance
A highlight reel of Kobe's basketball career -- including his five NBA championships with the Lakers -- followed, set to Maroon 5's "Memories." Baby Bianka sat on sister Natalia's lap, while Natalia held her mother's hand.
Beyoncé Performs Kobe's Favorite Song10:28 PM:
"While this is a memorial event, the word celebration is very much a part of its purpose," an announcer said at the start of the service. 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.
Kobe Opens 'A Celebration of Life' in His Own Words10:20 AM:
The memorial opened with a tribute to Kobe, looking back on his life and career in his own words, as well as clips of the father-daughter duo bonding over their love of basketball and competitive spirit. It was very quiet inside the Staples Centers as attendees watch video of Kobe talking about Gigi playing basketball, then rose to their feet as the service began.
The Kardashians, Dwyane Wade and More in Attendance10:08 AM:
Alongside the fans celebrating Kobe's life at the Staples Center, some of his famous friends have assembled to honor Kobe and Gianna. In attendance are Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Kanye West, Kris Jenner, Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade, Ciara and Russell Wilson, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Byron Scott and Phil Jackson. Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez are seated next to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
As a highlight reel of Gigi played, Shaquille O'Neal hugged Kobe Bryant’s father.
Inside 'A Celebration of Life'9:44 AM:
With the memorial set to begin at 10:00 a.m., fans are taking their seats inside the Staples Center. The entire stadium is 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.
35,000 Red Roses for Kobe and Gianna8:59 AM:
"The stage is set," Lee Zeidman, the president of Staples Center, tweeted alongside a photo of the A Celebration of Life jumbotron: Purple and yellow butterflies projected next to a family photo of the Bryants. On the floor, Zeidman revealed, 35,000 red roses are set up in a circle at the center of the stadium.
'A Celebration of Life' Program and T-Shirt Tribute8:50 AM:
Attendees entering the Staples Center for the memorial received a commemorative T-shirt, with images of Kobe and Gigi together on the front and on the back, both of their jersey numbers with an infinity symbol between them, as well as the A Celebration of Life program and a "KB" pin.
Kobe Thanked for His Contributions to Women's Basketball8:19 AM:
Ahead of speaking during Monday's memorial, Oregon basketball star Sabrina Ionescu wrote about Bryant -- who had become a close friend and mentor as she looked to the WNBA -- for The Player's Tribune. "Kobe always saw the bigger picture," she wrote. "That was clear with everything he did in his life — but to me it was especially clear with the way that he looked at and treated the game of women’s basketball. He didn’t see growing the game with girls as his hobby, or as some side project, or as a charity case. He saw it as a movement. And he didn’t get involved because he just wanted to be a fan of our movement. He got involved because he wanted to be a part of it."
"And that’s what I always loved so much about Kobe, and it’s one of the things that I hope people will remember about him," she wrote. "All that he cared about really was your love of the game. That was the test you had to pass with Kobe: Could you match him passion for passion when it came to hoops. If you could do that, then you had his respect."
Los Angeles Remembers8:18 AM:
Fans around the world -- and across the city of Los Angeles -- paid tribute to Kobe and Gigi with memorials in the weeks leading up to his public service. Artist Levi Ponce, who painted a mural at 100 N. La Brea Ave., told ET that upon hearing the news of the athlete's death, he knew that he had to do something. "I painted him in 2016 when he retired and I didn't think I'd be painting him again so quickly, and definitely not under these circumstances," Ponce told ET.
The mural took about three days to paint, and Ponce wanted to make sure that he portrayed Bryant's full life, not just his career as a basketball star. "When I first painted him, he had retired so I mostly did a Laker thing," he explained. "But I wanted to do something a little bigger than that. So we alluded to life outside of basketball as well and so we just wanted to paint a bigger picture with this mural."
What to Expect at the Memorial8:15 AM:
Monday's public service is a chance for fans, friends and fellow Lakers to pay tribute to the basketball legend. ET confirmed that members of the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers teams will be in attendance at the service, as well as Golden State Warriors stars Steph Curry and Draymond Green and members of the Memphis Grizzlies team, who play the Clippers at Staples Center on Monday night.
A private funeral service for Kobe and Gianna was held at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona Del Mar, California, on Feb. 7. "Vanessa and the family wanted a private service to mourn their loss," ET reported earlier this month. "The ceremony was extremely hard for everyone as it's still hard for them to grasp they lost two beautiful souls."
Vanessa Bryant Shares a Tribute to Gigi8:04 AM:
Vanessa Bryant began the day with a tribute to Gigi, sharing a photo of a tattoo that soccer star and family friend Sydney Leroux got to honor the late young athlete. "#2, Leroux. Thank you for honoring my Gigi. I love you @sydneyleroux," she captioned a shot of the new ink, the number two -- Gigi's jersey number.
How to Watch the Memorial8:00 AM:
ET's coverage will begin at 8 a.m. PT, with Kevin Frazier and Nischelle Turner live from the Staples Center. Starting at 10:00 a.m. PT, ET will stream the entire memorial, uninterrupted, on our YouTube Channel and ET Live. You can watch at ETLive.com and on the ET Live app, which you can download on your Roku, Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV. ET Live also streams on Pluto TV and Samsung TV Plus and via CBS All Access.
Tune into Entertainment Tonight on Monday for a complete recap of the memorial.
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