The world said their final goodbyes to Kobe and Gianna Bryant on February 24, 2020, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California where Kobe created his legacy with the Lakers. The date symbolized the combination of Gianna’s jersey number two and Kobe’s number 24. Friends, family, and fans alike filled the stadium to celebrate the lives of the nine people that were lost in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020.
The celebration started with Beyonce singing an acoustic version of her song “XO” that she revealed was one of Kobe’s favorite songs of hers and invited the crowd to sing along for him to hear, as well as her song “Halo”. The memorial continued with a video of Kobe’s highlights from his career in basketball from his time in high school and his legendary professional career. The video also featured clips of Kobe and his daughter Gianna at games after his retirement and celebrating with his family after winning championships with the Lakers.
The master of ceremonies, Jimmy Kimmel, speech honoring all those who perished in the crash. Kimmel highlighted all of the places that are honoring Kobe with murals and memorials. He lightened the mood by listing all of the places honoring Kobe saying,
“in Boston, for god sake,” which earned laughs and small smiles from those in the crowd.
Vanessa Bryant then took the stage to a standing ovation and thanked everyone for their support during this rough time for her family. The first part of her speech was dedicated to her daughter. She spoke of Gianna’s love of baking, her sisters, and of course basketball. Several moments in the speech brought smiles to the crowds’ faces as Vanessa Bryant recounted her daughter offering the boys’ basketball team tips on how to improve their game, and her relationship with her father and sisters. The crowd erupted into cheers and applause as Vanessa recounted her daughter’s passion for equal treatment and pay of female athletes, especially in the WNBA.
Vanessa then went on to tell every one of her love with Kobe from the young age of 17. She also told the crowd that Kobe had given her the blue dress and notebook, used in the movie “The Notebook”, as a symbol of them wanting to grow old together. She went on to talk about all that she and Kobe would not be able to do, but also how he was the “MVGD”, most valuable girl dad.
She also said, “God knew they couldn’t be on this Earth without each other, he had to bring them home together.”
Friend of the Kobe Family and WNBA legend Diana Taurasi then spoke to those who had come to celebrate and mourn. Taurasi discussed how Kobe had made an impact on her career. She also acknowledged how talented Gianna was proving to be on the court, inheriting Kobe’s love of the sport. Taurasi became coaked up as she remembered the last time she saw Gigi (Gianna) and the excitement she carried with her for her future in basketball.
Gianna’s mentor, Sabrina Ionescu, gave a more light-hearted speech about the young Bryant’s talent and how Kobe impacted Ionescu’s career. Ionescu urged everyone to always remember Kobe and Gianna and what they not only did for the game of basketball but the light they brought to the world and to not let it go out as time goes on.
University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma spoke, “as a father, not a basketball coach.”
Auriemma’s speech had the crowd smiling and laughing as he told everyone of the conversations he had with Kobe about how he should coach Gianna and her teammates. He also told stories of Kobe taking a step back when visiting UConn and allowing Gianna to be a star and let the moment be about her, and just being there as her dad.
The ceremony went on with speeches from Kobe’s manager and friend Rob Palinka, a montage of photos of Vanessa and Kobe throughout their relationship as Alicia Keys played piano, and an audio recount of Kobe’s greatest achievements that roused chants of “Kobe, Kobe, Kobe,” throughout the crowd.
Fellow NBA legend Michael Jordan gave one of the most tearful speeches of the afternoon. Jordan referred to Kobe as his little brother and very close friend, a relationship many were unaware of. Jordan again lightened the mood of the crowd saying Kobe was the reason that there would be another crying meme of him floating around for the next few years. Jordan also said that Kobe taught him to be a girl dad. Jordan concluded,
” When Kobe Bryant died a piece of me died… rest in peace little brother”
Christina Aguilera gave a moving performance of “Ave Maria” before Kobe’s academy award-winning movie “Dear Basketball” was screened on the jumbotron to close out the ceremony.
Those who were at the ceremony and watching from home were encouraged to donate to the Mamba Mambacita Sports Organization to support the families that lost loved ones in the accident.