The celebration of life service for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna is being held this morning at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Marc Lamont Hill and Jemele Hill are hosting the BET coverage of the remembrance of the Lakers legend who died last month in a helicopter crash. The network will be streaming coverage of the service in honor of the NBA superstar and his 13-year-old daughter who also tragically died on January 26 along with seven others.
Today we remember the legacy of Kobe Bryant and celebrate the life of his daughter Gianna Bryant. Hosted by Marc Lamont Hill and Jemele Hill. Mamba and Mambacita forever. #BETRemembers #Kobe #Gianna #ForKobeandGigi #KobeFarwell💜💛 https://t.co/Ka5Q3sO2NL
— BET (@BET) February 24, 2020
💜 2.24.20 💛 pic.twitter.com/IW3KBU5b2w
— STAPLES Center (@STAPLESCenter) February 24, 2020
The service is expected to begin shortly where Vanessa Bryant and her daughters are expected to attend.
More than 20,000 people, friends, and family, are expected at the Staples Center where Kobe played many games during his illustrious NBA career. The ticketed proceeds will benefit the newly renamed Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation.
Beyoncé opened the ceremony belting her song “XO”.
“I’m here because I love Kobe and this was one of his favorite songs.”
Beyoncé stopped and then encouraged the crowd to sing along with her. The Grammy winner then segued into a stirring performance of “Halo”. Vanessa was then seen in the audience clapping.
— The Association on FOX (@TheAssociation) February 24, 2020
A montage of Kobe was then shown of him encouraging people to follow their dreams.
Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live, took to the podium, to speak the names of the lives who were lost that fateful day: Bryant, 41, Gianna, 13, Payton Chester, 13; Sarah Chester, 45; Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50.
Kimmel broke down crying as he remembered Kobe and the others who died. Kimmel spoke of gratitude, grateful for the time they had with those whose lives were lost and the time everyone still had with each other. He invited everyone to take a moment to shake hands with the person next to then.
A “Kobe” chant then broke out. Kimmel then introduced Vanessa. Kobe’s widow received a thunderous ovation and she began to speak of her “thoughtful” daughter, Gigi.
“Gianna made us all proud, and she still does. Gianna never tried to conform. She was always herself. She was a nice person, a leader…She had so much swag and rhythm since she was a baby,” Vanessa eulogized.
Vanessa then began to speak of her “soulmate” Kobe, reminiscing of the good times they shared together.
“I couldn’t see him as a celebrity nor just an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband…he was my everything…Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words,” she said.
One of Gigi’s mentors, Sabrina Ionescu of the Oregon Ducks, spoke of the youngster and her determination. She had envisioned a bright future for the late teenager.
“Whichever school she would come to choose, it didn’t matter. If I represented the present of women’s basketball, Gigi was the future,” Ionescu said.
Beyoncé was seen comforting an overwhelmed Vanessa throughout the ceremony.
Rob Pelinka, VP and GM of the LA Lakers, then took to the podium and shared memories of the Bryants. He was so close to the family that he and his wife were her godparents. He spoke of how Gigi was a blessing to others.
He also shared how Kobe was still trying to make a difference even in his final moments. The 41-year-old texted him from the helicopter about Alyssa who was looking for an internship.
“Kobe’s last human act was heroic. He wanted to use his platform to bless and shape a young girl’s future,” Pelinka said.
Pelinka told the mourners of how Kobe taught himself how to play Beethoven and concluded his remarks by speaking of his love for the family. He pledged to be there. Alicia Keys then took center stage to perform her own rendition of “Moonlight Sonata”.
Michael Jordan, NBA legend, broke down in tears as talked about Kobe, describing how the Laker used to call and text him at early hours in the morning. At first, Jordan said he was aggravated but it turned into a passion. Jordan said Kobe wanted to be the best basketball player he could be and as he got to know him, he wanted to be the best big brother he could be.
“Kobe was my dear friend. He was like a little brother. Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe,” the NBA superstar said.
Through his tears, Jordan said that now he had to look forward to still being a crying meme thanks to Kobe.
“Now he’s got me…I’ll have to look at another crying meme for the next..,” he joked.
Shaquille O’Neal, who won three consecutive championships with Kobe, spoke of the deep love and respect he had for his teammate. O’Neal brought the grievers to laughter as he shared an anecdote of Kobe on the court. He had been told to tell the shooting guard to start passing the ball more.
“I said, ‘Kobe, there’s no “I” in “TEAM!” and he said, ‘Yeah, but there’s an “ME” in that mothef-cker.'”
Shaq gives a one-of-a-kind story about Kobe Bryant 😂 pic.twitter.com/D6V88jw70D
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 24, 2020
Shaq was given a standing ovation after his remarks. Christina Aguilera followed him with a stirring performance of Ave Maria.
The service, which lasted over two hours, concluded with “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!” chants after Kimmel addressed the gathered one last time.