Los Angeles was in tears on 2/24 as they watched Kobe and Gigi’s Celebration of Life at Staples Center. Fans packed the stadium with their Laker colored Kobe regalia, while friends and family joined the floor dressed in suits. Some wearing sunglasses to hide their eyes. 33,643 red roses surrounded the center stage and symbolized every point Bryant scored during his time in the NBA.
Although the ceremony was put together quickly to meet the symbolic 2/24 deadline, every moment was carefully thought out. Jimmy Kimmel made an emotional opening speech and jokingly said: “You picked the wrong person to guide you through, I’m going to tell you that right now.” However, he set the tone for the rollercoaster of emotions that viewers would experience over the next few hours.
- The crowd stood and roared at Vanessa as she walked up the stairs to the podium. Her deep breaths were painful and after she forced herself to hold everything in she let the most heartbreaking speech out. She reflected on happy memories of Gigi never forgetting to give her kisses and filming her TikTok dances. She pushed through tough moments like knowing she’ll never teach Gigi how to drive or walk her down the aisle. She shared cherished details of her life with her “soulmate,” Kobe, like when he gave her props from The Notebook. She said, “We had hoped to grow old together like the movie.” Their relationship started in the public eye since they were young teenagers on the set of Kobe’s music video. It evolved into a fairytale of love between a couple and their beautiful family of daughters.
- The Staples Center made last-minute accommodations to the stage to fit surprise guest Beyonce. She invited the crowd to sing along with her and said, “I’m here because I love Kobe, and this was one of his favorite songs.” She opened the ceremony singing XO, a song Bryant used for the credits of his documentary MUSE. Her angelic voice closed the performance with Halo and gave goosebumps to those watching. At times, it looked like Beyonce’s eyes started to well up with tears. After she bowed, she kissed her purple painted nails that read Kobe and Gigi. The Bryant’s were close with Beyonce regularly watched her in concert. During Michael Jordan’s speech, Beyonce squeezed Vanessa’s shoulder as she cried. A meaningful gesture of love from a friend of the family.
- During Kobe’s peak basketball career, Shaquille O’Neal was the man at his side. A duo that led the Lakers into a three-peat that has yet to be accomplished by any team in over a decade. He recalled a candid moment when Kobe said: “These guys are playing checkers, I’m out here playing chess.” Shaq responded with “I guess so Kobe, I don’t know how to play Chess.” As Shaq pushed through his speech, he shared a moment that hit the heart of every Laker fan that ever got mad at Kobe for never passing the ball. After the team complained to Shaq, he said: “Kobe, there’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team.'” Kobe replied with “I know, but there’s an M.E. in that motherfucker.” Shaq’s speech was rich with joyful memories and hope for healing.
- A central theme throughout Kobe’s life was his love for Vanessa. Kobe’s best friend and manager Rob Pelinka, “had a front-row seat to being witness to their love for 20 years.” Pelinka shared an intimate conversation with Kobe about him missing “V and the girls so much.” Kobe noticed a piano in his hotel and was inspired by the moonlit sky to learn Beethoven’s Midnight Sonata by ear as a vow of his love for Vanessa. Pelinka said, “Kobe’s passion and love for Vanessa combined with the patience and focus that only the black mamba has, made this seemingly impossible goal a reality.” After his speech, Alicia Keys was accompanied by a string quartet to play the romantic composition. It was a reflective moment that left the crowd silent for a few minutes.
- Although the Lakers were Kobe’s favorite team, like every true basketball fan Michael Jordan was his hero. It felt surreal to watch Jordan walk up the stairs to the podium and speak in the past tense about Kobe. He shared details about Kobe’s sportsmanship that people never knew like late-night phone calls for advice. Jordan said, “Kobe left nothing in the tank, he left it all on the floor.” The two had a close relationship and Jordan saw him as a little brother. Like a true big brother, Jordan expressed how much of a “nuisance” Kobe became and how that “nuisance turned into love.” His speech was an unexpected expression of love from the most influential basketball player to his successor. Jordan laid out the unrelenting wonder Kobe had for basketball with tears streaming down his face. A viral image that everyone was thinking of and Jordan addressed gracefully. “Now he got me, I’m gonna have to look at another crying meme,” he said to the crowd. “I told my wife I wasn’t gonna do this ’cause I don’t want to look at this for the next three or four years.” It was a hilarious moment that everyone needed to hear.
Kobe and Gigi’s celebration of life was arranged remarkably. Every speaker shared insightful moments that we can now cherish with the Bryant family forever. There is no easy way to get through a sudden tragedy like this other than to cherish the people you love now.
Vanessa left a final note of hope dedicated to her late husband Kobe. She said, “Babe, you take care of our Gigi. I got Nati, BiBi, and KoKo, and we’re still the best team. We love and miss you, Boo-Boo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day. We love you both and miss you forever and always, Mommy.”
Rest In Peace
Kobe Bryant, 41
Gianna Bryant, 13
John Altobelli, 56
Keri Altobelli, 46
Christina Mauser, 38
Ara Zobayan, 50
Sarah Chester, 45
Payton Chester, 13