A public memorial to celebrate the life of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, along with seven victims who died in the tragic helicopter crash, was held on Monday at Staples Center. A number of current and former NBA legends and celebrities attended the memorial service to celebrate the life of the nine lives lost.
Among the speakers to take the stage at Staples Center were Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal and Rob Pelinka, current Lakers general manager and Kobe's former agent. However, the most powerful speech of the day undoubtedly came from Bryant's wife, Vanessa, as she took the stage to honor the life of her daughter and her husband.
In addition to the moving speeches from some of the people who were closest to Kobe, those in attendance and those watching on television were treated to musical performances from the likes of Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera as well as number of video tributes ranging from Kobe's award-winning short film "Dear Basketball" as well as his speech from his jersey retirement ceremony.
Some of the best moments from Monday's tribute to Kobe and Gianna at Staples Center can be found by clicking on the video clip above.
The date itself (2/24/20) was symbolic of the jersey numbers worn by Kobe (No. 24), and his daughter Gianna (No. 2), along with the number of seasons (20) played in the NBA for the Lakers. A limited amount of tickets were made available for the general public for the memorial and all proceeds went to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation.
Monday's service served as more of a celebration than a funeral. A private burial service was reportedly held for Kobe and Gianna near the family's Newport Coast home two weeks ago at the Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar.
The courage shown by Vanessa Bryant was unfathomable
It's difficult for anyone to speak on the death of a loved one, regardless of how much time has passed, but the ability to do it in front of some 20,000 people a month after losing your husband and daughter are unimaginable. As the first speaker at Kobe and Gianna Bryant's Celebration of Life memorial inside Staples Center, Vanessa delivered a two-part speech first honoring her 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Vanessa spoke about Gigi's passion and dream for wanting to play in the WNBA, the light she exuded wherever she went and their close relationship as mother and daughter.
"Kobe always said [Gigi] was me," Vanessa said. "She had my fire, my personality and sarcasm. She was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine."
After spending nearly 10 minutes sharing with the world who Gianna Bryant was, Vanessa then shifted focus to her husband, Kobe. She talked about not Kobe the NBA legend, but Kobe the father and husband. She shared the many nicknames they had for each other, and an inside look on just how much of a devoted father he was to his daughters. Throughout the entire speech, Vanessa showed an immense amount of strength that no one could imagine, and she ended it by speaking on the bond between Kobe and Gianna.
"God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other," she said. "He had to bring them home to heaven together. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again. We love you."
Gianna was honored just as much as Kobe
As much as this memorial was supposed to be about celebrating Kobe's legacy, they also did a tremendous job of celebrating Gianna as well. Despite being just 13 years old, Gianna was already drawing comparisons to the way she played basketball to her dad, and as each speaker got on stage they shared moments they've had with Gigi. Oregon women's basketball player Sabrina Ionescu talked about how she used to help train Gianna and the pride she took in helping the next generation of women athletes, while Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi spoke to the fire and passion she saw in the young teen.
"If I represented the present of the women's game, Gigi was the future, and Kobe knew it," Ionescu said.
It was widely known that Gianna wanted to attend UConn to play basketball, so when Huskies coach Geno Auriemma took the stage, he focused on talking about her and the talent she showed at such a young age. He also made a point to talk about Kobe as a dad, not the basketball player, and how he genuinely wanted to help his daughter become her own player, and not just the daughter of Kobe. Every speaker talked about the fire that Gigi showed on the court, and the versatility she showed off it, which is something else that she shares with her father. At the end of Taurasi's speech, she promised to carry on not just Kobe's legacy, but Gianna's as well.
Michael Jordan delivered an emotional, heartfelt speech about Kobe
One of the most powerful speeches of the afternoon came from Michael Jordan, who spent nearly 10 minutes eulogizing Kobe, who he considered a little brother. It was Jordan like you've never seen before, as he spoke fondly about the close friendship he shared with Kobe with tears streaming down his face. He said that when Kobe died, a piece of him died too, and spoke to the gravity of his death on the basketball community.
Jordan shared how Kobe would always ask him for tips on his game, and that while at first, it was annoying, he grew to love the relationship they had. It was awe-inspiring to watch a usually inaccessible Jordan be so vulnerable and open, and it speaks to just how tragic Kobe's passing was. He even added some comic relief when he mentioned the crying Jordan meme, but ended his speech talking about how Kobe has inspired him to become the best "girl dad" to his six-year-old twin daughters.