The NBA world, sports world, and the world in general was taken by shock on Sunday, January 26, when the news broke that basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others tragically died in a helicopter crash in California. Many people upon hearing the news headed to the Staples Center in Los Angeles to leave memorabilia, candles, balloons, etc. Fans from all over the country came to mourn the loss.
With all the love and outpouring of responses from fans and people, Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, decided to remember the victims in an amazing way. She rented out the whole Staples arena, which many people classify as the house that Kobe himself built. She sold tickets online at prices ranging from $24.02- $224, so that fans could purchase tickets and pay their respects.
The memorial had over 20,000 people in attendance, and included fans, family, teammates, NBA legends, and celebrity guests, some of whom delivered emotional speeches. The opening of the memorial began with a beautiful tear-jerking performance from Beyoncé; she performed her song “XO” and then followed it up with her hit song “Halo” with her own twist. According to Dailymail.com, Beyoncé broke her silence by saying, “I will continue to diligently pray for your Queens. You are deeply missed beloved Kobe.”
Vanessa Bryant gave a heartbreaking and emotional speech. Given that it was technically the first time Bryant broke her silence since learning of the deaths of Kobe and Gianna, there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience. In one heart-wrenching moment from the 15-minute speech, Bryant said, “God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together.”
In attendance was UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. Vanessa Bryant asked him to speak because Gianna always had dreams of playing for the Huskies. Gianna and her father Kobe Bryant had recently attended a game in Storrs, CT in March of 2019. During his speech, Auriemma got a tad emotional, but kept his composure for the respect of the Bryant family. He stated how passionate Gianna was about basketball and how she loved the game so much. She seemed at home sitting courtside at a UConn game. Gianna was only twelve years old, but already knew that UConn was where she belonged.
According to the LA Times, this part of Auriemma’s speech was particularly powerful. “In this room is an incredible amount of talent,” Auriemma said. “In this room is maybe the greatest collection of talent that I’ve ever been around. But in this room, there’s a family. And there’s still a team back home. And they still have a great coach. And I’m going to be rooting for that team.” Auriemma was referring to the family Bryant left behind: Vanessa Bryant and her three daughters, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.
Alicia Keys paid tribute to Kobe the day of his death, which occurred on the same day that she was set to host the Grammys. But at Bryant’s memorial service, she reminded everyone that tomorrow isn’t promised, that we should appreciate the days we have with our loved ones, and always keep them close. She made sure she paid tribute to the NBA legend by performing “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano. This particular song was meaningful to Vanessa because it was a song that Kobe learned in one night to perform for her for their anniversary. While Keys played the piano, it was obvious she was trying to contain her emotions. Her performance was beautiful and she put every ounce of passion into it.
The memorial service was overall a celebration of Bryant’s life, and it provided a family and a community of fans a time and a place to grieve together.