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WATCH: Jimmy Kimmel ditches his studio audience for a somber tribute to Kobe Bryant

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(CNN) -- Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show usually opens with laughter, but on Monday night there was nothing to laugh about.

Monday's episode of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" opened with a monologue from Kimmel that focused on mourning the death of Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter accident on Sunday that killed the NBA legend, his daughter Gianna and seven others. Kimmel discussed Bryant's life and legacy and reflected on his relationship with the basketball star.

"Tonight's show is going to be different from out usual show," Kimmel said, looking into the camera. "We don't have a studio audience here tonight because going forward with a comedy show didn't feel right considering what happened yesterday. So I'd like to just speak to you directly."

Kimmel said that Bryant's death was "a punch in the gut" and called the former NBA superstar "a hero."

The late night host said Bryant was a hero “in the way Superman is a hero.”

"He was so big, it was almost like he was a fictional character," Kimmel said. "He was a real-life superhero with a costume and everything, walking amongst us."

Kimmel, who airs his show from Los Angeles, said that the city loved Bryant because "he was ours."

"He came to L.A. when he was a teenager and unlike almost every other superstar athlete, he never left," Kimmel said. "In his 20-year career he only wore two uniforms, for the Lakers and for the United States Olympic team."

Kimmel also noted that Bryant was not "a perfect person."

"My intention is not to canonize him or make judgments about things I don't know anything about," he said. "But I will say he loved his family, he worked very hard, and he brought a lot of joy to a lot of people in this city and we're going to miss him."

Kimmel, choking up, added that Bryant was a "bright light."

The host said that Bryant was a guest on his show 15 times and that the pair "had many fun and interesting conversations." Kimmel spent the rest of the broadcast showing clips from his interviews with Bryant over the years.

Kimmel wasn’t the only late night host that honored Bryant on Monday. Jimmy Fallon, the host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” also spoke about Bryant, recalling a story about going on a beer run with him on the night they met.