By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer
Family members, basketball legends, celebrities and fans all gathered for Kobe and Gianna “Gigi” Bryant’s public celebration of life held on Monday morning in Los Angeles.
Thousands filled the home of the Lakers, the Staples Center, to capacity for the basketball legend and his daughter who died in a helicopter crash on their way to a youth basketball tournament last month. Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s widow, made her first appearance since the tragedy. Bryant thanked the audience for their condolences and honored both her daughter and husband with a heartfelt tribute speech.
Following in the footsteps of her father, Bryant said of her daughter’s potential, “Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA.”
After watching Bryant’s tribute speech, Houston sophomore Grace Kosley said she could hardly take it.
“I thought the worst was over with Gigi’s part, but I seriously couldn’t keep watching through Kobe’s, I feel so much for the Bryant family,” she said.
Kobe Bryant made a significant impact on several people’s basketball careers: “white mamba” Diana Tualasi, Oregon basketball player Sabrina Ionescu, University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, the Lakers general manager, Rob Pelinka who worked alongside Bryant, who all spoke at the event. Even his biggest role models and adversaries, former basketball players Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal praised Bryant on his commitment to always working to be a better basketball player, friend, father and husband.
With tears in his eyes, Jordan said how he wanted to be the best big brother to Bryant as he got to know him.
Houston sophomore Luke Richards said he didn’t believe it was true when he heard about Bryant’s death. “He was a huge part of the sports world even though a lot of people didn’t like him because he was so good, he was respected. He’s a great example of work ethic and competitiveness,” he said.
“It’s rare when you can grow up and have conversations with adversaries,” Michael Jordan said. He remembered the first thing Kobe asked when they met was if he had his shoes. “I wasn’t thinking about playing, but he had this attitude to compete against someone better than him, to learn and get better, you rarely see someone who is looking and trying to improve each and every day. I am inspired by what he has done and shared with Vanessa and his kids.”
Artists Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera performed in tribute to the father and daughter at the celebration of life.
As a final tribute to Kobe Bryant’s legacy and interest in the film industry, “Dear Basketball,” Kobe Bryant’s Oscar award-winning short film was played to conclude the celebration.
Ticket sale proceeds benefited the Mamba and Mambacita Sport Foundation for youth athletics, to continue support toward both Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports.
Basketball legend, black mamba, Oscar award winner, author, “greatest-of-all-time” Kobe Bryant (1978-2020), and Gianna Bryant (2006-2020) were remembered by many who knew them; along with the seven others on board, John Altobelli, wife Keri and daughter Alyssa Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, daughter Payton and pilot Ara Zobayan.