It was a day of mourning and celebration as fans, friends, family, athletes and stars filled the Staples Center to remember the lives and legacies of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Giana, who died tragically in a helicopter crash last month.
The memorial took place at the house Kobe built over the years while playing for the Lakers.
Here are a few highlights and tear-jerking moments from the memorial:
The public memorial began with a video of the late NBA star speaking in his own words. Read more here.
Vanessa Bryant delivered a heartbreaking goodbye to her daughter, Gianna.
Thank you. Thank you all so much for being here. It means so much to us. Love you too. First, I’d like to thank everyone for coming today. The outpouring of love and support that my family has felt from around the world has been so uplifting. Thank you so much for all your prayers. I’d like to talk about both Kobe and Gigi but I’ll start with my baby girl first.
My baby girl, Gianna Bryant, is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul. She was always thoughtful. She always kissed me good night and kissed me good morning. There are a few occasions where I was absolutely tired from being up with Bianca and Capri and I thought she had left to school without saying goodbye. I text without saying ‘no kiss?’ and Gianna would reply with ‘Mama, I kissed you. You were asleep and I didn’t want to wake you.’ She knew how much her morning and evening kisses meant to me and she was so thoughtful to remember to kiss me every day. 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.
Now for my soulmate.
Kobe was known for being a fierce competitor on the basketball court, the greatest of all time, a writer, and Oscar winner and the Black Mamba. But to me, he was Kob Kob, my Boo Boo, my Bay Boo, my Papi Chulo. I was his Vee-Bee, his Principessa, his Reina, his Queen Mamba and his Veeski-Maneeski-Fabuleeski. I couldn’t see him as a celebrity, nor as an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children. He was mine. He was my everything.
“Kobe was the MVP of Girl Dads -- or the MVD. He never left the toilet seat up. He always told the girls how beautiful and smart they are. He taught them how to be brave and how to keep pushing forward when things get tough,” she said. “And when Kobe retired from the NBA, he took over picking up and dropping off the girls from school since I was at home pregnant with Bianka and just recently home nursing Capri.”
Jimmy Kimmel Tearfully Eulogizes Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Pays Tribute to 7 Other Helicopter Crash Victims
Jimmy Kimmel couldn’t hold back his tears as he took the stage at the Staples Center on Monday to help guide the memorial service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, as well as to honor the seven other victims who died in a helicopter crash last month.
“Well, you picked the wrong person to guide you through this, I’m going to tell you that right now,” Kimmel told the packed venue. “I want to thank everyone for being here and thank you for gathering to celebrate the lives of Alyssa Altobelli and her parents, John and Keri Altobelli, Payton Chester, her mother, Sarah Chester, Christine Mauser, Ara Zobayan, Gigi Bryant and her father, Kobe Bryant.”
Michael Jordan says he didn't see Kobe Bryant as his rival for the mythical honor of being recognized as the best basketball player ever.
Instead, he came to love Bryant as the little brother he never had, and as a student eager to learn from Jordan's experiences and skills.
“He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be,” Jordan said Monday at Bryant’s public memorial service at Staples Center. “And as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.”
Jordan broke into tears with those words during a moving speech about his largely unpublicized friendship with Bryant.
“When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died,” Jordan said. “And as I look (around) this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died, or else you wouldn’t be here. Those are the memories that we have to live with and we learn from. I promise you from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing that little brother that I tried to help in every way I could. Please rest in peace, little brother.”
Aguilera sang “Ave Maria” during the emotional performance with an orchestra.
“Thank you, Christina, that was beautiful. And in Italian, as well,” Jimmy Kimmel, the emcee for the event, quipped. The singer blew a kiss to Kobe’s family as she stepped offstage.
Shaquille O’ Neal took the podium to deliver a heartwarming speech about the Los Angeles Lakers star.
"Kobe and I pushed one another to play some of the greatest basketball of all time," said O'Neal, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers with Bryant from 1996-2004. "Kobe and I always maintained a deep respect and love for one another."
“Mamba, you were taken away from us way too soon,” he continued. “Just know that we got your back, little brother.”
The University of Connecticut paid a special tribute to Gianna Bryant by honoring the 13-year-old basketball player with an emotional video from her visit to the UConn locker room in March 2019. The teen hoped to play for the school one day.
UConn's head coach, Geno Auriemma, shared heartfelt words on Gigi and her father, Kobe. “I'm not here to talk basketball,” Auriemma admitted before explaining that he had too many thoughts running through his head. "I came here as a father."
"The thoughts that I had were obviously about all of the people that were on board," Auriemma said referencing the fatal helicopter crash that claimed the lives Gianna, Kobe and seven others.
“If you’re a father, a grandfather, you feel a different kind of emotion when there are children involved because this is always about the children,” he added. “We’ve lived our lives, we have a little bit left.”
During the public memorial, the singer sweetly performed a song on the piano that held a very special meaning to the late NBA star and his wife, Vanessa Bryant.
Dressed in purple, Keys performed Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on a purple piano. It’s a song Bryant once learned to play, by ear, for his wife of 20 years.
During the service, Bryant’s beloved Dear Basketball film was screened for the crowd inside Staples Center. Kobe announced his retirement on Nov. 29, 2015, by penning an emotional poem about his passion for the sport. The letter, titled “Dear Basketball,” was published in The Players’ Tribune. The poem was later turned into an animated short film with the same name. Narrated by Bryant with animation by Glen Keane and music by John Williams, it scored the NBA legend an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2018.