Vanessa Bryant, Michael Jordan, Jimmy Kimmel and Others Celebrate Kobe and Gianna Bryant at Memorial

Rebekah Sager
February 24, 2020 - 12:49 pm
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Fans, family, friends, and the city of Los Angeles bid farewell to Kobe and Gianna Bryant at a public memorial at Staples Center Monday. 

A five-time NBA champion, Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died Jan. 26 after the helicopter they were in crashed in Calabasas. 

The memorial was opened by singer, Beyonce, with her rendition of songs, "XO" and "Halo."

Jimmy Kimmel officiated the ceremony and gave a heartfelt speech, reading the names of all of those who died on that fateful day. Choking up, he said he could only imagine how painful this all could be. 

 Along with Bryant and his daughter, also killed in the crash were:

John Altobelli, 56, a longtime coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team, along with his wife, Keri, 46, and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa, who was a teammate of Gianna on Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy basketball team;

Sarah Chester, 45, and her 13-year-old daughter Payton, who also played with Gianna and Alyssa;

Christina Mauser, 38, one of Bryant's assistant coaches on the Mamba Academy team; and

Ara Zobayan, 50, the helicopter pilot.

Vanessa Bryant took the stage early on in the ceremony to talk about her late husband and daughter.

Bryant was remembered as charismatic, loving, adoring and romantic by his wife. Vanessa said Gianna was "sunshine." She said she brightened-up her day. Adding that Gigi would have become the best player in the WNBA, making a huge difference in women's basketball. 

"I couldn't see him as a celebrity nor just an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children," Vanessa said. "He was mine. He was my everything. Kobe and I had been together since I was 17 and a half years old. I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidante and his protector. He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words.

"... I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe," she said. "He was charismatic, a gentleman. He was loving, adoring and romantic. He was truly the romantic one in our relationship. I looked forward to Valentine's Day and our anniversaries every year."

Bryant said Gianna was a "beautiful, kind, happy, silly, thoughtful and loving daughter and sister. She was so full of life and had so much more to offer this world. I cannot imagine life without her."

She lamented that she would not be able to see her daughter grow up.

"I won't be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day," she said. "I'll never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy, dance on the dance floor with me or have babies of her own."

Notable speakers included Michael Jordan, who was weeping as he spoke about the late Bryant.  Shaq took the stage and talked about how they both respected each other, even though they had their challenging moments on and off the court.

 

Alicia Keys played Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano -- a favorite of both Vanessa and Kobe's. And Christina Aguilera sang "Ava Maria." 

Other speakers were WNBA player Diana Taurasi and University of Oregon basketball player Sabrina Ionescu.

The ceremony attracted a whos-who of basketball and entertainment greats, including Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Tim Duncan, Dwyane Wade, Steph Curry, Rick Fox, Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West.

This is the program, shirt and pin being given to people as they enter Staples Center, according to our reporter Margaret Carrero.

On February 19 a limited number of tickets were released for public sale. Tickets were priced between $24.02 and $224.00 each. "Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation," the Lakers said.

Bryant wore Nos. 8 and 24 for the Lakers while his daughter wore No. 2 for her youth team.

All funds and ticket sales gathered from the event were to go to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation. The foundation was renamed by Vanessa Bryant on Feb. 14 to include her daughter's moniker, "Mambacita."

Street Closures 

The immediate areas surrounding Staples Center will be barricaded and closed off to general pedestrian traffic. Only people with tickets will be allowed through checkpoints that are set up outside the arena.

Chick Hearn Court/11th Street will be closed from Georgia Street to Figueroa Street.

Georgia Street will be closed from the West Access Road to Chick Hearn Court/11th Street.

Figueroa, Pico, and Olympic boulevards will remain open, but heavy traffic is expected, and commuters heading to downtown L.A. during rush-hour are advised to give themselves extra time.

For a map click here

Metrolink is encouraging people attendees to take the train. 

A private funeral was already held for Bryant and his daughter at Pacific View Mortuary & Memorial Park in Corona del Mar, about 50 miles south of Staples Center.

CNS contributed to this story.