29 days after basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his teenage daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, were tragically killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. An open memorial service “A Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant” was held at Los Angeles’s Staples Center a.k.a. “the house that Kobe built.” (as Alicia Keys described the center during her tribute to Bryant at the Grammys)
“We’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
Special memorial service date
Feb. 24 — was uniquely significant with the numbers of the date being 2-24-20.
Gianna Bryant wore No. 2 on her basketball jersey, while her father adorned the No. 24, transforming it into a monumental symbol in Lakers history.
The number 20, as Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow quipped was also significant as she and Kobe Bryant were a couple for 20 years, just as he was a Lakers player for 20 seasons.
Star-studded Attendance List
Gathered at the venue of the event to celebrate the lives and times of the Kobe and Gigi was a crowd of about 20,000 people.
Among which included some of basketball biggest names: Micheal Jordan, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Diana Taurasi, Lisa Leslie, Phil Jackson, LeBron James, Stephen Curry.
Also in attendance were Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, Alex Rodriguez, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Michael Phelps.
Beyoncé opened the “Celebration of Life” with moving renditions of “XO” and “Halo.”
Performing with a band and choir all clad in white, Beyonce beckoned on the audience to sing along with her.
“… I want us to do it all together and I want you to sing it so loud that they can hear your love.”
Queen Bey was adorned in gold, the same color as the Los Angeles Lakers jersey.
Jimmy Kimmel compered the solemn event
The late-night host of Jimmy Kimmel Live had already dedicated an episode of his show to the Los Angeles legend. However, his love for Kobe overflowed at the “Celebration of Life” as he eulogised Bryant’s enormous impact in Basketball, Art and on the World in general.
Vanessa Bryant told the world more about Kobe and Gigi
While making her way towards the podium, to pay tribute to her late husband and 13-year-old daughter. Bryant’s widow, Vanessa was given a standing ovation by thousands in the crowd.
She thanked the teeming crowd and fans around the world for their condolences, which she said had helped her and her family deal with their grief.
Gigi was to Vanessa more than just a daughter, as she had so much to say about such an amazing Basketballer she would have been.
“She always kept our family together, She loved family traditions. Family movie night and game night on vacations were important to her.”
“She was an incredible athlete. She was great at gymnastics, soccer, softball, dance and basketball… At school, she offered the boys’ basketball coaches to help give the boys’ basketball team some pointers – like the triangle offense.”
Vanessa and Kobe started their love journey when she was about 17 years old, a union that welcomed four beautiful girls into the world.
Vanessa couldn’t but make mention of the close relationship between Kobe and his daughter Gianna.
“God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other,” “He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi.”
Kobe had a “secret talent”
Apart from his basket skills, Kobe had an incredible ear in which he learnt fast the lyrics of songs after hearing them only a few times. He and his daughter shared this trait.
Noteworthy was the occasion when he learned Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” by ear, rehearsed with the grand piano in his hotel room. And a few days later, he played it for his wife, Vanessa.
Alicia Keys honored him at the “Celebration of Life” by playing “Moonlight Sonata” on a purple grand piano.
Another Michael Jordan crying face meme
Breaking down in tears during his speech, Michael Jordan remembered that the last time he cried publicly, it became a huge meme.
“Now he’s got me — I’m gonna have to look at another crying meme for 3-4 years,” he laughed.
Jordan added that young Bryant had come to him for advice during his career.
“At first, it was an aggravation,”
“But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know … As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.”
Shaquille O’Neal reminiscenced the good ol’ Laker days
“The day Kobe gained my respect … the guys were complaining, ‘Shaq, Kobe’s not passing the ball, I said, ‘I’ll talk to him.”
“I said ‘Kobe, there’s no ‘I’ in team.’ Kobe said, ‘I know, but there’s an ‘M…E’ in that motherfucker.”
O’Neal who in his playing days was such a bad-ass free-throw shooter instilling fear into opposing teams closed his remarks by promising to help carry on Bryant’s legacy with Kobe’s three daughters.
“I’ll be sure to teach Natalia, Bianka and baby Capri all your moves, and I promise I will not teach them my free-throw techniques.”
Christina Aguilera delivered a powerful Italian tribute
The songstress sang “Ave Maria” in Bryant’s second language – Italian. As a kid, Bryant grew up in Italy while his father played professional basketball there.
Kobe never hid his love for the Italian culture as he was known to support one of the capital city’s football club AC Millian.
Setting the tempo for the closing of the 2 hour memorial, Kobe Bryant’s Academy Award–winning animated short “Dear Basketball” was screened.
The short animation is a story of the Legend’s love for the Ball, the Basket and his Post-retirement passions.
Kimmel offered the audience some words of advice befitting a celebration of Bryant’s life: Don’t forget: “Work hard, and hug the people you love.”
Bryant is survived by his parents, Vanessa and his three other daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri. On Monday, it was also announced that Vanessa has filed a lawsuit against the company that owned the helicopter in which Kobe, Gianna and the other victims were killed.
Full video of the Celebration of Life Service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant