02/24 20:08 CST Tears from a comic, a mom and a legend mark Bryant memorial
Tears from a comic, a mom and a legend mark Bryant memorial
By ANDREW DALTON
AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) --- Memorable moments from inside the memorial for Kobe Bryant
and his daughter Gianna.
BEYONC, ALICIA, CHRISTINA AND ?MARIA'
Practically everything about what would happen at Kobe Bryant's memorial was a
mystery to nearly everyone watching, and when Beyonc took the stage to open
the celebration of life, a gasp went up among the until-then subdued crowd at
Staples Center in Los Angeles. The big screen in the arena soon showed that
many major entertainment figures were in the audience along with the expected
NBA stars, including Jennifer Lopez, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
The memorial's other musical moments would provide their own surprises. A harp
and grand piano that a scrambling crew set up on stage between speakers led to
speculation about who else would perform. The harp accompanied Christina
Aguilera as she sang "Ave Maria," a nod to the Bryant family's Catholic faith
and to Kobe Bryant's Italian upbringing. The piano was for Alicia Keys, who
used it to play Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," which the crowd had just
learned the usually non-musical Bryant had learned to play for his wife's
SHAKEN KIMMEL SETS THE TONE
The crowd was more perplexed than surprised moments after Beyonce's polished
opening when the Staples Center announcer said a "good friend of the Bryants
and the Lakers family is here to help guide us through this morning's
celebration," and introduced not a priest or pastor, but Jimmy Kimmel. The
late-night host, professional prankster, and sometime Academy Awards emcee
agreed he was an odd choice, but his shaken, tearful delivery set the tone for
the deep emotions that were to follow. "You picked the wrong person to guide
you through, I'm going to tell you that right now," a choked-up Kimmel said.
Even more tears came as he listed the names of the nine killed in the
helicopter crash, and he was practically weeping when he said of Kobe and
Gianna Bryant, "everywhere you look you see his face, his number, Gigi's face,
Gigi's number." He drew laughs from the tears when he said those places
included "Boston, for God's sake. In places where he would be booed on the
court, Kobe was missed. Even the great Boston Celtic Bill Russell (who sat
nearby in the crowd) wore number 24 and a Lakers jersey to yesterday's game. I
knew he would come to us eventually."
A DAUGHTER, AND A FUTURE, LOST
Vanessa Bryant would soon take the room to new depths of emotion as she paid
tribute to the 13-year-old daughter and the husband she lost. Deep silence ran
through the crowd of some 20,000 at Staples Center, broken only by sniffs that
came even from the usually emotion-free press section of the arena, as she
described the imagined future a mother would never know for her child. "We will
not be able to see Gigi go to high school," Vanessa Bryant said, her voice
breaking. "We didn't get the chance to teach her how to drive a car. I won't be
able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. ... Gigi would have
most likely become the best player in the WNBA. She would have made a huge
difference for women's basketball."
TAURASI AND IONESCU, KOBE AND GIANNA
Everyone expected to see and hear from legends of the NBA game, but giants of
the women's game showed viewers how much this side of basketball also shaped
Bryant's life as he coached Gianna's team and fueled her future career. Both
WNBA all-time great Diana Taurasi and collegiate all-time great Sabrina Ionescu
said they learned and used Kobe's signature moves. "He taught me his step-back,
he told me that if I could bring that to my game it would be over for any
defender trying to guard me," Ionescu said. "He was giving me the blueprint. He
was giving Gigi the same blueprint.
A STAR AMONG STARS
Even in an arena loaded with superstars from sports and entertainment, Michael
Jordan taking the stage left the audience awestruck. The crowd had been growing
a little restless after an unbroken string of speakers, and some headed for
restroom and concession trips after 90 minutes of sitting still, but when the
Chicago Bulls legend walked on to stage, Staples Center snapped back to full
attention, and when Jordan was crying from his first words, the room knew it
was witnessing a truly rare moment from the superstar.
He even acknowledged that his tears invoked the photo meme that dominated
social media several years ago. "Now he's got me," Jordan said of Bryant. "I'm
going to have to look at another crying meme for the next" and was cut off by
laughs and howls from the crowd.
BRYANT'S LAST TEXTS FROM THE AIR
Kobe's best friend, former agent and current Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka
had the crowd riveted when he described the last messages Bryant sent him,
moments before the helicopter crash that killed him. Pelinka said he was in
church and Bryant was in the air when Bryant texted him to ask if he knew a
baseball agent who could help a hard-working, ambitious girl get an internship.
The story took a truly touching twist when Pelinka revealed that the girl was
Lexi Altobelli, the surviving daughter of John Altobelli, who died in the crash
"Kobe's last human act was heroic," Pelinka said. "He wanted to use his
platform to bless and shape a young girl's future."
It was not clear when Shaquille O'Neal took the stage that he would be the
final speaker, but in retrospect it could not have been more fitting that the
man whose name will always be tied to Bryant's went last in the building where
they built their legacy together.
The always playful Shaq showed why he and the refined, serious Bryant were such
an odd couple. "Sometimes like immature kids, we argued, we fought, we bantered
or insulted each other," O'Neal said. But, he added, "when the cameras were
turned off we threw a wink at each other and said, ?Let's go and whoop some
ass." And he showed Bryant wasn't above having the occasional outrageous moment
himself. He recalled an early conflict with Bryant, who wasn't passing as much
as O'Neal would've liked. O'Neal said he told Kobe: "There's no ?I' in team."
Kobe responded: "Yeah, but there's an ?M-E,'" followed by an F-bomb that broke
the somber tone and made the crowd roar.
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