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Kobe Bryant memorial at Staples Center

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Thousands of fans on Monday poured into the Staples Center to remember the lives of late NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others killed in a helicopter crash last month in an emotional ceremony that spoke to the legendary Laker's outsize impact on Los Angeles, the basketball world and the culture at large.

His wife, Vanessa, spoke publicly for the first time since her husband and daughter's death. She fought back tears when speaking about the loss of her young daughter.

"I won't be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. I'll never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy, have babies of her own," she said.

She also remembered Kobe, who she was married to for 20 years. "Babe, you take care of our Gigi, and I got Noni, BB, and Coco. We are still the best team. We love and miss you, booboo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace, and have fun in heaven until we meet again."

Thousands of fans attended the sold-out public memorial, which included performances from Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera. The Lakers said proceeds from ticket sales would be donated to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.


Shaquille O'Neal: "It is time for us to continue your legacy"

In his tribute, fellow NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal said he and Kobe pushed each other to play "some of the greatest basketball of all-time." 

"Yes, like sometimes immature kids we argued, we fought, we bantered or insulted each other with offhand remarks," he said of his former teammate. "But make no mistake, even when folks thought we were on bad terms, when the cameras were turned off, he and I would throw a wink at each other and say, 'Let's go whip some a**.' We never took it seriously. In truth, Kobe and I always maintained a deep respect and a love for one another." 

Kobe and Shaq were teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 to 2004. Together they won three straight NBA championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002. 

"Mamba, you were taken away from us too soon," he added. "Your next chapter of life was just beginning. Now it is time for us to continue your legacy. You said yourself that everything negative — pressure, challenges — it's all an opportunity for me to rise. So I now take that advice and now rise from anguish and begin with the healing. Just know that we've got your back, little brother." 

"Kobe, you're heaven's MVP," he said in conclusion. "I love you, my man. Until we meet again." 

The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant
A general view of the jumbotron as Shaquille O'Neal speaks on February 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. Kevork Djansezian/Getty
By Victoria Albert

Michael Jordan: "When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died"

NBA legend Michael Jordan eulogized Kobe, saying he was like a little brother to him. Kobe spent the majority of his career studying Jordan, hoping to one day become the best basketball player of all-time. 

"You know, all of us have brothers, sisters, little brothers, little sisters for whatever reason always tend to get in your stuff, your closet, your shoes, everything. It was a nuisance if I can say that word but that nuisance turned into love over time," Jordan said, adding that Kobe would text him all night asking about post-up moves, footwork and sometimes the triangle offense. 

"At first, it was an aggravation, but then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know. It's an amazing thing about passion. If you love something, if you have a strong passion for something, you will go to the extreme to try to understand or try to get it."

"He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be. As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be."

"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died," Jordan said. "As I look in this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died."

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant(L) and Chicag
Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan on December 17, 1997. VINCENT LAFORET/Getty
By Justin Bey

Alicia Keys performs Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata"

Alicia Keys took the stage to perform Beethoven's "Piano Sonata No. 14," commonly known as the "Moonlight Sonata." The song was said to be one of Kobe and Gigi's favorite musical numbers. 

Kobe learned to play the song for Vanessa, according to Entertainment Tonight.

Alicia Keys performs during the "Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" service at Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles on February 24, 2020. FREDERIC J. BROWN/Getty
By Victoria Albert

"Kobe's last human act was heroic"

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka says Kobe was texting him on the helicopter before it crashed on January 26. Kobe was trying to secure an internship for Lexi Altobelli, the surviving daughter of coach John Altobelli, who was also killed in the crash.

"For the last two decades, Kobe and I talked or texted every single day, because that's what best friends do. Kobe was asking me if I knew a certain agent based in Southern California," Pelinka said.

"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."

"Kobe's last human act was heroic. He wanted to use his platform to bless and shape a young girl's future. Hasn't Kobe done that for all of us? Kobe was literally the best friend anyone could ask for," he added.

By Justin Bey

How Kobe inspired Diana Taurasi

Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi, who Kobe once called the "white mamba," spoke about her relationship with Kobe.

"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 struggled together. We grew together. We celebrated victories together. The same passion we all recognized in Kobe, obviously Gigi inherited," she said.

Her skill was undeniable at an early age. I mean, who has a turn-around fade-away jumper at 11? LeBron's barely got it today," she said to laughter.

"The last time I saw Gigi, the mambas were in Phoenix. Kobe brought them to the locker room to watch practice. I always remember the look on Gigi's face. It was a look of excitement, a look of belonging, a look of fierce determination," she said.

By Justin Bey

Basketball stars in attendance

NBA legends and basketball stars are in the audience at Staples Center. Here's a list of notable attendants: 

Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Bill Russell, Sabrina Ionescu, Diana Taurasi, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Anthony Davis, Dwyane Wade.

By Justin Bey

Vanessa Bryant: "Gigi was motivated to change the way everyone viewed women"

Kobe's wife Vanessa received a standing ovation as she took the stage. She thanked everyone in attendance and starting by speaking her daughter Gianna.

"She was competitive like her dad but Gianna had a sweet grace. Her smile was like sunshine," Vanessa said.

"Kobe and Gianna naturally gravitated towards each other. She had Kobe's ability to listen to a song and have all the lyrics memorized after listening to the song a couple of times. It was their secret talent."

"She was very maternal since she was really little. Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA," she said to applause. "She would have made a huge difference for women's basketball. Gigi was motivated to change the way everyone viewed women."

She then shared stories about Kobe and spoke about how much he loved coaching their daughter. 

"We balanced each other out. He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe. He was charismatic, a gentleman. He was loving, adoring. He was truly the romantic one in our relationship."

By Justin Bey

Jimmy Kimmel: "I don't think any of us could have imagined this"

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel fought back tears as he spoke about Kobe and his family.

"I can only imagine how painful this is for them. I don't think any of us could have imagined this. Everywhere you go, you see his face, his number, Gigi's face, Gigi's number, everywhere, at every intersection," he said.

"I have been trying to come up with something positive to take away. It was hard because it wasn't much. The best thing I was able to come up with is gratitude. It seems to me all we can do be grateful for the time we had with them and for the time we have left with each other."

The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant
Jimmy Kimmel speaks on February 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. KEVORK DJANSEZIAN / Getty
By Justin Bey

Beyoncé opens with surprise performance

Beyoncé opened the memorial on Monday performing her song, "XO." She said the song, from her 2013 self-titled album, was one of Kobe's favorite songs. She then performed her 2008 hit song "Halo."

"I'm here because I love Kobe," Beyoncé said.

By Justin Bey

Crowds begin to fill the stadium

The stadium is beginning to fill up as fans take their seats. Thousands of roses are surrounding the stage.

People arrive to attend the "Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" service at Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles on February 24, 2020.  FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty
By Justin Bey

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Kobe's drive

"Everyone has moments of brilliance, Kobe was like that every night and it was just a determination and a drive that he had that just irrepressible," six-time NBA champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told CBS News.

Kobe's drive was something he and Abdul-Jabbar shared. "One of my ex-coaches, he described me as an assassin because I figured out what I had to do and I was ready when the time came to try and make that kill. Kobe was like that."

"You had to be ready, you had to show what you were worth. Kobe never took his foot off of the gas. You got no breaks from Kobe," Abdul-Jabbar said with a laugh.

The result: five championships in 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. "He was an elegant athlete and a killer, you know, at the same time. The poetry and the results, and the world championships, they're all a part."

Abdul-Jabbar says he'll also remember Bryant as a devoted dad and spoke on the importance of the public memorial.

"I think it's important because everybody that's feeling this is part of Lakers nation. It wasn't just someone that we followed from afar, paying attention to the sports news. He was closer than that," he said. 

"He's going to be a part of who we are and what the Lakers and Los Angeles is all about forever. He inspired a whole generation of people. You know, that's quite a gift."

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant on December 18, 2017, in Los Angeles. Kevork Djansezian / Getty
By Justin Bey

Destined to become a superstar

In unaired footage from 2001, Kobe Brant and other Laker legends told "60 Minutes" why he was destined to become a basketball superstar. "I think I realized that I was a little different my first year in the league when, you know, I was very serious about the game at all times," he said at the time.

"I don't play around with basketball. I don't fool around with that," Bryant said. "It's enjoyable for me to play the game, but I love the game. To win, you kind of have to grind it out sometimes."

At the time, Bryant's focus was making it to his second NBA Finals. His Lakers were the defending league champions, and not only did they go on to win the championship again that June, but they would also take home the title the following year. It was the last time an NBA team has accomplished the coveted "three-peat."

Read more of the "60 Minutes" profile here.

From the archives: Kobe Bryant in his own words on 60 Minutes 04:29
By Justin Bey

Fans line up outside the stadium

Fans have begun lining outside of Staples Center early Monday morning. Doors will open at 8 a.m. local time and the event begins at 10 a.m.

Kobe Bryant Memorial Basketball
Fans line up outside the Staples Center on February 24, 2020. Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP
The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant
Fans arrive outside prior to The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on February 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. KEVORK DJANSEZIAN / Getty
By Justin Bey

The significance of 2-24-20

Earlier this month, Vanessa Bryant spoke about the symbolism of the memorial's date: 2-24-20. Kobe wore No. 24 for the final decade of his career and Gigi wore No. 2. Kobe and Vanessa spent 20 years together, the same amount of years he spent with the Los Angeles Lakers.

By Justin Bey

Officials try to limit outside crowds

In a statement, the Los Angeles Lakers said the memorial will not be shown on screens outside the arena, a move to limit massive crowds that flocked outside the arena after Bryant's death. They advised fans without tickets to watch the ceremony on television or online.

"If you don't have tickets and credentials, you will not be allowed into this venue. The point there is: do not impact the rest of the Los Angeles downtown community by trying to come here and be part of something that you'll not be a part of," Police Chief Michel Moore said at a news conference Friday.

Fans gather outside Staples Center on January 26, 2020. APU GOMES/Getty
By Justin Bey
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