Staples Center Packed for Kobe, Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life Tribute

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Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven others who tragically perished recently were remembered during a two-hour celebration of life service that brought 20,000 ticket holders to The Staples Center to bid their hero a final farewell.

The service began with Beyonce Knowles-Carter singing Kobe's favorite song, XO and transitioned into Halo. A very emotional Jimmy Kimmel also spoke on his memories of Kobe, his voice shaking as he remembered. As he explained, he was asked to be the guide for the day, a task that he was honored and humbled to undertake.


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The program followed with guest speakers including Kimmel, WNBA superstar and four-time Olympic Gold medalist Diana Taurasi, and Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon who shared stories of Gianna, her skill and expectations of her future as a basketball legend and of Kobe who elevated women's sports by being a mentor, friend and girl dad.

Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Rob Pelinka, Kobe Bryant's longtime agent and now Los Angeles Lakers vice present of basketball operations and general manager, and Coach Geno Auriemma of the UCONN Huskies also spoke. Performances in addition to Beyonce, included Alisha Keys, who performed Beethoven Moonlight Sonata and Christina Aguilera who performed Ava Marie in Italian.

Vanessa Bryant, who has essentially been in seclusion since the January 26, 2020 tragedy, spoke to the audience. For one moment she allowed the world of fans to share the affections, familiarities, and tender moments she shared with both her husband Kobe, and her daughter, Gigi. She showed a resolute strength as she expressed her grief in a collage of moments past and futures that will never be realized.


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There were clear moments that one could see a divine guidance as told by Rob Pelinka, as he explained the two spoke or texted everyday over the last twenty years. On Sunday, at about 9:15AM, Kobe sent him a text asking about a baseball sports agent, and as name explained the story, "an otherworldly nudging cause me to check my phone (in church!) and the two texted over the next 15minutes until the last text he received was of working out a plan for the youngest and now only surviving member of the Altobelli family, Lexi, to move forward with her dreams. "Kobe up until the last seconds of his life was working to move the dreams of another forward."

On the court Kobe was remembered by Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal, who each told stories of an annoying younger upstart, who became a teammate, a brother, a friend. Neither of these two basketball legends hide their feelings.

Jordan, who had tears streaming down his face joked, as he "revealed that he and Kobe Bryant were closer friends than anyone realized. "Everyone wanted to talk about the comparisons between him and I," Jordan said. "I just wanted to talk about Kobe,"' reported the New York Times.

Bryant's twenty years with The Los Angeles Lakers, his legendary performances, were captured by Shaquille O'Neal, who won three NBA Championship titles, part of the three-peat dynasty, who said, "Kobe and I have pushed one another to play some of the greatest basketball of all time and I am proud that no other team has accomplished the three-peat the Lakers have done since Shaq-and-the-Kobe Lakers did it," O'Neal said to cheers from the Staples Center crowd. "And yes, sometimes, like immature kids, we argued. We fought, bantered or insulted each other with off-handed remarks. Our feud. But make no mistake, folks thought we were on bad terms, when the cameras were turned off, he and I would throw a wink at each other," The New York Times reported.


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Bryant, who went pro right out of high school, became one of the all-time greatest players in the sport. Selected 18 times, over his twenty years with the Lakers, for the All-Star Games, selected 15 times as a member of the All-NBA team, winner of two Olympic Gold Medals, a 12 time member of the All-Defensive league, he was part of five NBA Championships.

In his retirement game, he scored 60 points, and walked away from the game. He scored a career and game high of 81 points January 22, 2006 against the Toronto Raptors. His second act, which had already produced an Academy Award, was largely recognized as one that would become equal to or greater than the first which would be hard to surpass.

The program also included the Oscar winning short film, Dear Basketball, which provided one more glimpse into a boy mesmerized with the idea of basketball greatness, who grew into one of the highest scorers in the NBA, who loved the game, who gave everything and someone who as Michael Jordan said, "Left nothing on the court."

Dear Basketball, was the introduction to Kobe's second act and set the standard for himself wining the highest award the entertainment industry offers.


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The Celebration of Life tribute was an A-List event attended so many who would sit courtside, by recognizable screen and film stars and recording artists, those who were preparing for the Grammy when the news came in, by basketball legends, superstars, team owners and teammates, and the fans the many who needed one more moment to remember the two decades of Black Mamba, jump shots, three pointers, of high scores, of 81 points. He brought leaders, and those for whom underwhelmed is an art form, to their feet.

The legacy of Kobe Bryant, the outpouring of grief, the tributes from around the world attest to a life well lived.

Also remembered during the service were the others who died January 26, 2020, baseball coach John Altobelli, 56 and his wife Keri, 41, and his daughter, Alyssa, 13, perished. They leave two children orphaned, a younger daughter, Lexi, 16, and an older son, J.J.

Christina Mauser, 38, was the assistant coach for the Mamba Academy basketball team, she leaves a husband and three children. Payton Chester, 13, and her mother, Sarah, also died. Ara Zobayan, the personal pilot for Kobe, also died.

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