2.24, the celebration of life for one of the famous basketball players in the world Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant. Many gathered in the Staples Center to share their favorite moments with the pair. The memorial service shut down the city of Los Angeles for the services.
The service opened with none other than Beyonce Knowles, who also was good friends with the Bryant family. Before she started her performance, she said “I'm here because I love Kobe Bryant.” The grammy award winning artist sang one of Kobe Bryant’s favorite songs XO. She graced the stage in a gorgeous gold suit and a choir behind her in all white. Then she then transitioned to one of her most famous songs, Halo. She looked to Vanessa Bryant and family throughout most of the performance as she gifted the world with one of the best live performances of her famed song.
Jimmy Kimmel was the host throughout the service and gave the first speech of the afternoon. Kimmel and Bryant started out in their respective businesses around the same time and created a beautiful friendship Throughout his speech, he was visibly emotional and tried to keep it together but mid speech the tears came. “It seems to me that all we can do is be grateful for the time we had with them and the time we have left with each other and that’s all.” Afterwards, he asked the crowd to give out hugs to the person next to them whether they knew them or not.
Next, was one of the strongest women on the planet, Mrs. Vanessa Bryant. As she walked to the stage, she was welcomed with thunderous claps and a standing ovation. “Thank you so much for being here. It means so much to us, [someone yells out from the crowd Love you] Love you too.” She then went on to thank everyone for coming out and showing an outpouring of love and support. The mother of four opened her eulogy with her daughter Gianna and shared some beautiful memories. “She knew how much her morning and evening kisses meant to me and she was thoughtful to remember to kiss me everyday. She was a daddy girl but I know she loved her mama and she would always show me and tell me. She was one of my very best friends.” Gigi’s courageous mom also spoke on her daughter’s competitiveness which she learned from her father “At school she offered the boys basketball coaches to help give the boys basketball team some pointers, like the triangle offense. She was very [much] like her daddy and they both liked helping people learn new things and master them.” Vanessa then moved on to talk about her soulmate, Kobe Bean Bryant. “I couldn’t see him as a celebrity nor just an incredible player. He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of my children. He was mine. He was my everything.” Many may not have known about Kobe’s romance but the world was surely informed how he always showed love to his wife, “He gave the actual notebook and the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in the ‘The Notebook’ movie. When I asked him why he chose the blue dress, he said because it was scene when Allie comes back to Noah. We had hoped to grow old together like the movie.” The Mamba was known for letting NOTHING in his path disrupt him but if Mrs. Vanessa was not front row and center at the games, he made sure they were on the hunt to find her, “He would worry about me if I wasn’t in my seat at the start of each game and would ask security where I was, at the first time out of the first quarter. My smart ass would tell him he was not going to drop 81 points within the first 10 minutes of the game.” To end her beautiful eulogy, “They were so full of joy and adventure. God knew they couldn’t be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have fun together. Babe, you take care of Gigi. I got Nati, BiBi and KoKo, and we’re still the best team.”
Following Mrs. Vanessa was none other than The White Mamba, Diana Taurasi. “Gigi in many ways, represents the future of women’s basketball. A future where a young woman aspires to play in the WNBA. The same way I wanted to be a Laker.” Taurasi and Bryant became great friends during the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and Bryant had even started to train her, “Every single workout, I end the same way with the Kobe game-winner. Three hard dribbles going right. Left foot plant pivot. Swing right leg through, elevate square up. Follow through. Five in a row and I got to go home. It’s that exact same shot that won us the championship in Phoenix in 2014.” One of the main reasons Taurasi was named the White Mamba was her tenacity on the court very similar to Bryant, “Kobe’s willingness to do the hard work and make the sacrifice every single day inspired me and resonated with the city of Los Angeles. We struggle together. We grew together. We celebrated the victories together.”
One of the greatest college players, male or female, Sabrina Ionescu, who was also a mentor to Gigi, “If I represented the present of the women’s game, Gigi was the future and Kobe knew it. So we decided to build a future together.” Just hours after her speech at the memorial, she became the first player in Division 1 history (male or female) to have 2K points, 1K assist, and 1K rebounds.
Robert Pelinka, the General Manager for the Lakers and also the godfather to Gigi. He gave an account from the last few hours of Kobe’s life while he was on the helicopter. Bryant had texted him while he was in church asking for a favor, “In that moment, my instincts were to put the phone down and get back to the preacher’s sermon but a gentle otherworldly nudge compelled me to open the text, so I did. I quickly saw that Kobe was asking me if I happened to know a certain baseball agent based in Southern California.” He went on to say that he put his phone down due to lack of urgency but Kobe texted him again. “Kobe texted back explaining his desire to help a friend of his secure a baseball agency internship for one of his young daughters. Kobe vouched for the girl’s character, intellect and work ethic. He clearly wanted to champion a bright future for her. I texted Kobe right back and said I would put a plan in motion to help him get that done.” A few moments later after the text exchange, Kobe, his goddaughter Gigi and seven other souls lost their lives. “A handful of minutes later Kobe and Gigi and seven other beautiful souls ascended into heaven. The girl in that text chain that he was wanting to help so badly was Lexi Altobelli, the surviving daughter of coach John Altobeli. Kobe’s last human act was heroic. He wanted to use his platform to bless and shape a young girl’s future.” He then gave insight to Kobe’s love for classical music and how and why learned one of the hardest pieces known to man. “When he told me this I thought there’s no way. I knew he wasn’t a trained musician and that was a real difficult piece of music to play. But Kobe’s passion and love for Vanessa combined with the patience and the focus that only the Black Mamba has made this seemingly impossible goal a reality. That next morning Kobe called and played me the first few measures. The next morning more. By the end of the week he had the entire piece mastered and he played it over the phone without a mistake.” The piece was the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. He wanted to learn the piece to play for Vanessa under the Moonlight.
Geno Auriemma, the head coach of the UCONN Women’s basketball team, which was the school that Gigi wanted to attend. He went into how Kobe reached out to him about coaching Gigi, “How ironic that he would talk to me about coaching? The uncoachable one wants to talk to me about coaching. I said ‘why’ and he said he’s coaching his daughters team. I said ‘Oh my God, that poor kid.’ So when I watched the highlights of her playing, about the third or fourth time she touched the ball, Gianna passed it when she was open. I thought she’s not listening to her father.” He went on, “He wanted to coach 12 and 13 year olds and wanted to coach them as if he’s coaching an NBA team to win an NBA championship like Michael Jordan, he was relentless and he left nothing in the tank.”
Alicia Keys took the stage and played Moonlight Sonata dressed in purple and gold.
One of the best duos in sports history was Shaq and Kobe, they won three championships IN A ROW! He recalled a moment back when teammates were complaining about him not passing and O’Neal offered to speak to him, “Kobe, there’s no I in team.” Shaq said. “I know, but there’s an M-E in that muthfuc*ker,” Kobe responded. “So I went back and told Rick (Fox) and Big Shot Rob (Robert Horry),’Just get the rebound, he’s not passing.” Shaq and Kobe haven’t always had the picture perfect relationship but what brotherhood does. “Sometimes like immature kids, we argued, we fought, we bantered, or insulted each other with off-hand remarks. But make no mistake, even when folks thought we were bad terms, when the cameras were turned off, he and I would throw a wink at each other and let’s go whoop some ass.” He went on, “Just know that we got your back brother. I will look after things down here. I’ll be sure to teach Natalia, Bianka, and Capri all your moves. And I promise I will not teach them my free throw techniques.”
Just like Shaq, Michael Jordan gave a light hearted feel to the service. Referring to his crying meme as he cried knowing he was going to become another meme again.”He got me [crying]. I’ve got to look at another [crying Jordan] meme. I told my wife I wasn’t going to do this because I don’t want to see this for next three to four years.” But they had a great relationship, “That nuisance turned into love. At first it was an aggravation. But then it first turned into passion like you would never know. He wanted to be the best player he could be. As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother I could be. To do that, you have to put up with the aggravation, the late-night calls, the dumb questions. I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant.” He finished towards the end with what almost everyone felt when Kobe passed, “When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. When I look in this arena or across the globe, a piece of you died.”
Christina Aguilera gave a beautiful rendition of Ava Maria.
It’s no doubt that the memorial was a beautiful service and the world owes a great debt to Vanessa Bryant and her family because she didn’t have to host this service. Everyone gave great accounts of their experiences with Kobe and Gigi Bryant. But one thing many didn’t forget to do were mention the other families who were also affected by the loss. The strength of Vanessa gave the world strength to conquer ANYTHING!
2.24 will forever be dedicated to Kobe Bryant and Gigi.