Kobe and Gianna Bryant honored at Celebration of Life service at Staples Center in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (WPVI) -- Thousands of mourners gathered at Staples Center Monday morning, as well as across all of Los Angeles, to say farewell to Kobe and Gianna Bryant nearly a month after they were killed with 7 others in a helicopter crash.

With 20,000 fans packed in the arena where Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for two decades, the memorial service, dubbed "A Celebration of Life," began with a performance from Beyonce who sang renditions of "XO" and "Halo."

Inside the area, the concourse was a sea of people dressed in the team colors of purple and yellow and others in black. On the scoreboard, the Bryant family's life flashed by in pictures: Vanessa and Kobe, Kobe and Gianna, the whole family in costumes, Gianna on the court, baby pictures of Gianna and her father.

Vanessa Bryant's touching tribute to Kobe, Gigi: 'We love you both and miss you'


Those in attendance were given a program containing photos, a purple KB pin and a T-shirt with photos of the father and daughter.

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel took the stage and delivered a tearful tribute in honor of all nine lives lost in the crash. He then prompted all those in attendance to hug and greet each other.

Kimmel then introduced Bryant's widow, Vanessa, who addressed the crowd after receiving a standing ovation. Holding back tears, she began with a tribute to Gianna, her "baby girl" who "would've gone on to become the best player in the NBA."



"Her smile was like sunshine. Her smile took up her entire face. Kobe always said she was me," she said. "She had the best laugh. It was infectious, it was pure and genuine."

Michael Jordan tears up remembering 'little brother' Kobe Bryant at memorial


Vanessa went on to share intimate details about her relationship with her husband, best friend and protector. Vanessa described him as a loving husband and devoted father with a tender heart who was "the MVP of girl dads."

She added that they talked about how they looked forward to becoming the "cool grandparents" after their kids have their own children. Vanessa also emphasized the strong bond between Kobe and their 13-year-old daughter.

"God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi."



Michael Jordan delivered a speech focused on Kobe's love for the sport of basketball and an unparalleled passion for everything he did.

"What he accomplished as a basketball player, as a businessman, as a storyteller and as a father... Kobe left nothing in the tank, he left it all on the floor," Jordan said.

Other speakers who shared memories, anecdotes and tributes included WNBA great Diana Taurasi, known as the "Black Mamba," college basketball star Sabrina Ionescu and University of Connecticut's women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma.

Alicia Keys also gave a piano performance of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, one of Kobe and Vanessa Bryant's favorite pieces of music.

Sabrina Ionescu remembers Gigi Bryant as 'a sun just starting to rise'


A host of NBA greats past and present were in attendance, including Jerry West, Phil Jackson, Kareen Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Paul Gasol and Steph Curry.

Fans began arriving hours ahead of the public memorial. Among them was 72-year-old Bob Melendez, who says he has been a Lakers season ticket holder for 40 years. Melendez says that after seeing Bryant play for many years he couldn't imagine missing it. He wore a black No. 24 jersey and Lakers jacket he bought for Bryant's final game.

"I'd never dreamed I'd be wearing this" at Bryant's memorial, he said.

The memorial will not be shown on TV screens at L.A. Live or near Staples Center, so officials are asking fans without tickets not congregate outside the service. Multiple checkpoints will be in place throughout the immediate area and are expected to cause traffic delays.

Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the newly renamed nonprofit, Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, which provides opportunities to young people through sports.

Lakers adorn Staples Center seats with Kobe Bryant jerseys in tribute ahead of emotional game
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The Los Angeles Lakers honored the late Kobe Bryant at Staples Center Friday night in their first game since the tragic crash on Sunday.



Kobe and Gianna were buried Feb. 7 in a private ceremony in Corona del Mar, according to death certificates released by Los Angeles County officials.



The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kobe Bryant honored in Lower Merion

Lower Merion High School held a special ceremony on Saturday, February 1 to honor alumnus Kobe Bryant, Gianna, and the seven other victims of the fatal helicopter crash.

The tribute took place between the girls' game against Southern Lehigh High School and the boys' game against Souderton High School.

During the ceremony, Lower Merion Coach Gregg Downer and Assistant Coach Doug Young, who was a teammate of Kobe Bryant, called up the late Los Angeles Lakers star's cousin, John Cox, to help unveil a framed no. 33 jersey on the wall of the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium.

"It's been a long week but I'm gaining strength, feeling stronger. Today was therapeutic for me. In many ways, in some strange way, I was looking forward to today, seeing my old players. I knew today was going to be an exciting day," said Downer following the game.

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Lower Merion High School pays tribute to Kobe Bryant during a ceremony at the gym named after him.

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