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Kobe Bryant and Gianna honored in emotional memorial service

Thousands gathered Monday to pay tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

Basketball icon Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were remembered at an emotional public tribute Monday, as thousands of mourners gathered at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, an organization that "exists to further Kobe and Gianna Bryant's legacy through charitable endeavors in sports," according to its website.

Read the latest updates:

Memorial service to be replayed on NBC News NOW

Gwen Aviles

Starting with Beyoncé singing "XO," one of Kobe's favorite songs, and ending with a replay of his Oscar-winning short, "Dear Basketball," the Kobe and Gianna tribute was chock-full of moving moments and reminders of his enduring legacy. 

If you couldn't watch the memorial service live, the tribute will be replayed starting at 8 p.m. ET via NBC News NOW

Husband and wife hold back tears leaving Staples Center

LOS ANGELES — William and Karen Urgía were blinking back tears as they stepped outside the Staples Center.

They were both especially moved by Michael Jordan’s speech — neither knew the two NBA greats had been so close.

“It really makes you think,” William said.

“The whole service was so moving,” Karen added. “We couldn’t miss it.”

Tears and hugs as the memorial comes to a close

A sea of black, purple and yellow streamed out of the Staples Center after Jimmy Kimmel, visibly emotional and fighting back tears, closed out the memorial with another tribute to Kobe, Gianna and the other lives lost in last month's helicopter crash. Kimmel introduced a final clip reel showing some of Kobe's most remarkable feats of athleticism.  

People sobbed and hugged one another while exiting into downtown L.A., as moments of quiet were  interrupted by cheers for the legend everyone was there to grieve and celebrate.

Kobe wasn't just an athletic superstar. He was a budding filmmaker.

In addition to dominating professional basketball and inspiring millions with his athletic prowess, Kobe was a budding filmmaking talent with an interest in visual storytelling and animation.

"Of course, because he is Kobe Bryant, the first movie he made won an Oscar," Jimmy Kimmel said before introducing "Dear Basketball," a 2017 animated short written and narrated by Kobe.

"Dear Basketball," with a stirring score by "Star Wars" composer John Williams, triumphed at the 90th Academy Awards in March 2018 — making Kobe the first pro athlete to win an Oscar.

Christina Aguilera sings 'Ave Maria'

Christina Aguilera sang a powerful and somber rendition of "Ave Maria" in Italian to honor Kobe, Gianna, and seven other victims of the helicopter crash. 

Her performance was accompanied by musicians playing stringed instruments, and while the singer did not give a speech, she did blow a kiss to the crowd at the end of the song. 

Shaq gets big laugh with a fondly remembered expletive

Shaq told the crowd that he once tried to talk to Kobe about hogging the ball.

"There's no 'I' in 'team,'" he remembered telling Kobe.

"I know," Kobe replied, per Shaq. "But there's an M-E in that motherf-----."

The audience went wild.

Kobe and Shaq: A brotherhood that ended in love but had its rocky points

Shaquille O'Neal delivered an emotional tribute to Kobe, putting a final loving touch on their relationship that had its share of ups and downs.

They both joined the Lakers in 1996, Shaq already an established superstar and Kobe an 18-year-old rookie. They became one of their sport’s most dynamic duos, leading Los Angeles to three consecutive world titles between 2000 and 2002.

But their eight-year pairing was a rocky one, with both stars needing the ball and maximum credit for the Lakers’ success. 

Two brothers reflect on their 'superman'

Like so many young Angelenos, brothers Miguel and Ronald Alfaro can’t remember the Lakers before Kobe.

Miguel, 24, said his earliest memory was watching a game when he was 5 years old. Those games were always on at home, more so than even the Dodgers, he said.

“Kobe was Superman, you know? Superman isn’t supposed to die,” Ronald, 22, said.

The two could barely hold back tears as they recalled their favorite moments.

Miguel still remembers a game in ‘06 or ‘07 when the Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns. “I don’t know what he did to me, but he touched me in a certain way. I feel like I lost a family member,” he said.

Michael Jordan draws praise for his Kobe speech

Michael Jordan isn't known for his public speaking, but his tribute to Kobe has drawn praise for its insight, candor and levity.

Michael Jordan: 'I'll have to look at another crying meme.'

Michael Jordan broke down crying in his tribute to Kobe, but he lifted the somber mood with a joke that drew huge applause and laughter: "I'll have to look at another crying meme."

He was referring to the famed internet meme known as "Crying Jordan," an image of the former Chicago Bulls megastar tearing up during his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Michael and Mamba: One G.O.A.T. to another

It was fitting that Michael Jordan took the stage to pay tribute to Kobe. 

After all, if the NBA had a Mount Rushmore, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant would both be on it. Kobe is fourth on the all-time scoring list with 33,643 points and Jordan fifth at 32,292.

Kobe has five NBA championship rings and Jordan six.

Jimmy Kimmel bringing levity after Alicia Keys' performance

Jimmy Kimmel brings levity to the celebration, joking that Kobe now wants to play "Moonlight Sonata" better than Alicia Keys.

Kobe's early days in Italy in the spotlight

The memorial has featured a few reminders of Kobe's childhood in Italy, including an audio snippet of him speaking in Italian.

He moved there when he was 6, after his dad, NBA player Joe Bryant, retired from pro ball in the United States and took his family to the city of Rieti. (The family later spent time in Reggio Calabria, Pistoia and Reggio Emilia.)

Claudio Lavanga, a Rome-based producer and correspondent for NBC News, wrote about the reaction to Kobe's death in Italy. You can read his article here.

MJ remembers his 'little brother'

Some of Kobe's most inspirational quotes

Gwen Aviles

Kobe's book "Mamba Mentality: How I Play" detailed the steadfast mindset that carried him throughout his basketball career. As the memorial is underway, many are looking to Kobe's own words of wisdom for inspiration and strength.

Alicia Keys' moving rendition of Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata'

Alicia Keys played Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," a favorite of Kobe and Vanessa's. Keys paid tribute to Kobe and Gianna on the night they died with a performance at the Grammy Awards of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye" alongside Boyz II Men.

One of Kobe's final acts: Helping a friend

In one of his final communications, Kobe reached to his longtime friend and current Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, trying to help a young lady get into sports management.

Pelinka revealed that he was at church on the Sunday morning Kobe was killed, and that the hoops legend kept texting, asking him to put him in contact with a well-known baseball agent. Kobe wanted to help the daughter and friend of fellow crash victim John Altobelli, possibly score an internship in the male-dominated field of sports representation. 

"Kobe's last human act was heroic," Penlink said. "He wanted to use his platform to bless and shape a young girl's  future." 

Key theme so far: Gratitude

Jimmy Kimmel and UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma have both emphasized the importance of gratitude in the wake of grief — savoring the time we all have together.

Fan at memorial says Kobe brought his family together

LOS ANGELES — Lakers fan and Los Angeles resident Mark Arciaga said today is “bittersweet.”

He watched Kobe play as a rookie and kept watching all 20 years. It was a way for Arciaga and his son to bond, he said.

Learning that the Bryants lost not just a father but also a daughter was devastating for Arciaga and his entire family.

“Kobe was a part of our lives. He brought so much joy to his fans and Los Angeles and the whole world,” he said.

Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu makes it to memorial, despite game hours later, 400 miles away

Sabrina Ionescu might well have the busiest day of anyone in the Staples Center on Monday.

The University of Oregon basketball superstar spoke at Kobe's memorial and will be immediately boarding a plane for Northern California where her No. 3 Ducks will play at Stanford and the No. 4-rated Cardinal at 6 p.m. PT. 

Ionescu revealed that she's sent text messages to Kobe, even after his passing, and added that "sometimes I find myself still waiting" for a response.

The significance of the early speakers

Gianna is being remembered as a preternaturally gifted young athlete. Kobe is being remembered as a tireless advocate for girls in sports. That's why it's probably no coincidence the first two speakers to represent the sport of basketball — Diana Taurasi and Sabrina Ionescu — are female superstars.

It's a testament to Kobe and Gianna's legacy, as many commentators pointed out.

L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke moved by Vanessa's tribute

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke tweeted that Vanessa Bryant's letter to Kobe and Gigi "is the most powerful and courageous moment I’ve seen in Staples Center."

He would know. Plaschke has written for the L.A. Times since 1987 and been a columnist since 1996.

Diana Taurasi, the 'White Mamba,' is one of the greatest in WNBA history

As a child, Diana Taurasi said, she knew exactly who she wanted to be someday: the female Kobe.

The all-time WNBA scoring leader grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Chino, a mere 35 miles east of Staples Center. She told those at the Staples Center that she spent countless hours shooting hoops in her front yard — dreaming she'd be the next Kobe. Eventually, Kobe granted her the ultimate nickname "White Mamba." 

Kobe and Taurasi went on represent America in the 2008 Olympics.

Taurasi played at the University of Connecticut, which Gianna aspired to attend one day.

A doleful fan remembers the player she loved

LOS ANGELES — Monica Wilson drove an hour from Lakewood, California, to be at the Staples Center.

Her father was a referee when she was growing up and the family always watched whatever game was on TV. Basketball was Wilson’s favorite but she never got to see Kobe play in person. From afar, she loved his drive and the example he set for other young people following their passions.

“I feel pride being able to be here today,” she said. “It really hurts — the tragedy that took place — but I’m here today to show how much appreciation I have for him.”

Vanessa on Kobe and Gianna: 'God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other'

At the close of her speech, which highlighted many of the things Gianna and Kobe shared in common, such as the ability to quickly pick up the lyrics to a song, Vanessa said: "God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to heaven together."

Kobe gave Vanessa the blue dress from 'The Notebook'

Gwen Aviles

In an emotional tribute, Vanessa reflected on her marriage, saying Kobe called her princesca and reina. 

"I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidante and his protector," Vanessa said. "He was the early bird and I was the night owl. He was fire and I was ice, and vice versa sometimes."

The two planned to renew their vows and "always talked about" how they'd "be the fun grandparents." 

Kobe even gave Vanessa the blue dress from the classic romantic film "The Notebook," because that was the dress the main character, Allie, wore when she returned to her boyfriend in the film. 

"I"m so thankful Kobe heard KoKo say dada," Vanessa said. "He taught us all valuable lessons ... and we're so thankful he left those lessons and stories behind for us ... We're still the best team." 

Michael Jordan helps Vanessa Bryant off the stage

NBA legend Michael Jordan helped Vanessa Bryant off the stage following her emotional tribute.

Vanessa Bryant is helped off the stage by former NBA player Michael Jordan after speaking during a celebration of life for her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna.Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Mourners receive commemorative items

Vanessa Bryant says Gigi had so much more to offer this world

Vanessa reflected on all of the milestones she will never get to share with Gigi, such as her walking down the aisle on her wedding day or her father-daughter dance.

“Gianna would have been an amazing mommy,” she said. 

An aspiring WNBA star, Gianna advocated for women in the league to be paid fairer wages, Vanessa said, adding that "Gigi" would have been "the best player in the WNBA."

Vanessa Bryant remembers daughter Gigi as her 'best friend'

Vanessa Bryant thanked fans from around the world for their love and support. In his introduction of Vanessa, Jimmy Kimmel said the crowd would hear from the person Kobe and Gianna loved the most. Vanessa described Gianna as one of her best friends. 

Jimmy Kimmel fights back tears in stirring tribute

Jimmy Kimmel's voice shook and tears streamed down his face as he paid tribute to the victims of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna.

The late-night host said it was difficult to find meaning in their tragic deaths, but he implored the crowd to be grateful for the time they have with the ones they love.

Kobe and Beyonce's dad once played one-on-one

It wasn't an ankle breaker, but Beyonce's dad once showed off some smooth moves against Kobe.

Kobe made an appearance on the video of the Destiny’s Child 1999 hit "Bug-A-Boo"  — so of course, Beyonce's dad, Matthew Knowles, challenged the then-budding NBA great to some one-on-one. Kobe wasn't playing the toughest defense when Knowles took it to hole for a lay-up.

“I don’t think he made another basket after that," Kobe fondly recalled in a Fox Sports interview.

Was there any trash talk? 

"I don't remember trash talk," Kobe said before correcting his memory, "Well I think I did." 

The faces in the crowd

We've seen a few glimpses of major figures in the audience: Shaq, NBA chief Adam Silver, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez ... 

Powerful start to the memorial: Beyoncé sings one of Kobe's favorite songs

Beyoncé, dressed in gold and bathed in purple light, took center stage at the beginning of the memorial. The crowd at the Staples Center erupted in applause.

Backed by a choir and musicians dressed in white, Beyoncé opened with her 2013 hit "XO" — which she said was one of Kobe's favorite songs. She then belted out "Halo," bringing her hands to her lips at the song's climax.

Fellow Lakers legends in attendance

Lakers legends Magic Johnson and Phil Jackson, the team's former coach, were among those in attendance.

Image: Public memorial for NBA great Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California
NBA great Magic Johnson, top, former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson and others attend a public memorial at the Staples Center for Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others killed in a helicopter crash.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Sabrina Ionescu pens tribute to 'mentor' Kobe

Gwen Aviles

Sabrina Ionescu, a point guard for the Oregon Ducks and one of the speakers at the memorial, shared a tribute to Kobe that was published by The Players' Tribune on Monday.

Ionescu called Kobe a mentor and said that his death left her with "questions about my own path." 

"He didn't see growing the game with girls as his hobby, or some side project, or a charity case," Ionescu, who is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s WNBA draft, wrote. "He saw it as a movement." 

Somber mood inside a normally energetic Staples Center

LOS ANGELES — The mood inside the Staples Center is incredibly somber. Many people are dressed in black, with Lakers purple and yellow scattered about. Usually bursting with energy, today the arena very much feels like a memorial as fans mourn the man many saw as a hero. 

Memorial attendees provide window into event via Snapchat

People attending the memorial are providing unique, first-person views of the event through Snap Maps, which collects content uploaded to particular locations.

Athletes share how Kobe inspired them to be a #GirlDad

Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics and Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers spoke with ESPN about how Kobe inspired them as fathers of young girls.

Vanessa Bryant files wrongful death suit

LOS ANGELES — Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death suit against the helicopter company involved in the January crash that killed her Kobe and Gianna, as well as seven other people.

The suit against Island Express Holding Corp of Fillmore, California, was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by attorneys representing Vanessa Bryant. Filed just before the memorial, the lawsuit alleges the company put the helicopter in the air when conditions were not safe for flying.

This is a developing story. Read more here.

Where are you sitting for the Kobe's memorial? It depends how much you paid.

Like any other event Staples Center, where you're sitting for Monday's Kobe Bryant memorial depends on how much you spent on your ticket. 

The Lakers partnered with Ticketmaster to sell a select number of tickets to the general public who had registered online. The tickets were priced at three tiers: $224 each, $224 for two or $24.02 each, the Lakers said.

One Twitter user reported being offered a $24.02 ticket in Section 302, row 13 of the arena, just two rows from the very top of the building. 

Another netizen reported buying two $224 tickets, so $448 total, landing downstairs in the comfort of section PR7. Tickets sales will benefit the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit honoring Kobe and Gianna's legacy "through charitable endeavors in sports."



Commemorative tickets handed out at Staples Center

Long lines form as fans and mourners head into Staples Center

LOS ANGELES — Long lines have formed outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles as fans roll into the memorial. The scene is calm and orderly, with no indications of large disruptions from un-ticketed fans. The memorial slated as a "Celebration of Life" is expected to start soon. 

The history of tears (of joy and sorrow) at Staples Center

Even before Kobe Bryant's admirers and well-wishers filled the Staples Center on Monday, the home of basketball's Lakers and Clippers and hockey's Kings has seen its share of memorable wins and sad memorials. 

The Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup there in 2012 and 2014, while the Lakers clinched two of Bryant's five NBA titles (2012, 2014) inside the arena just south of downtown L.A.  But the building has also been the scene of sad and grand sendoffs.

Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson
Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson at Michael Jackson's memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on July 7, 2009.Mark J. Terrill / AP Pool

Fans of slain rapper Nipsey Hussle packed Staples Center 10 months ago to celebrate the beloved performer

Michael Jackson's star-studded memorial was also held there July 7, 2009. Bryant and Magic Johnson were among the mourners inside Staples Center that day.

Orange County plans to pay tribute, too

Orange County, home to all nine victims of the crash, will be a key part of the day.

The city of Santa Ana is expected to open City Hall to mourners who want to watch a live broadcast of the memorial. Orange County Great Park soccer stadium plans to offer the same service.

Bryant's legacy on display at Celtics vs. Lakers game

The legacy of Kobe Bryant was on display during Sunday's game between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center.

The two teams have what is arguably the biggest — and at times most heated — rivalry in the NBA. But the respect between the organizations was evident, with many Celtics players wearing purple wristbands to honor Bryant.

And in a sight that few NBA fans would have ever imagined, Celtics legend Bill Russell showed up to the game decked out in purple and gold, including a Bryant jersey.

The Lakers edged out the Celtics 114-112

Immediately after Monday's memorial, the Staples Center will be prepared for a game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Clippers, with tip-off set for 10:30 p.m. ET.

Memorial service expected to honor all the victims

Gwen Aviles

Monday’s memorial service is expected to also honor the seven other people who died in the January helicopter crash. Here are snapshots of their stories:

John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli

John Altobelli served as the head coach of the Orange Coast College Athletics baseball program, in Costa Mesa, for 27 years. During his tenure, he racked up four state championships and last year, he was named National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

His 13-year-old daughter, Alyssa, who was best friends with Gianna Bryant, dreamed of becoming a star basketball player. Tony Altobelli, John’s brother, told NBC News that Keri Altobelli was a great mom to Alyssa and the couple’s two other children, Lexi and J.J.

Sarah and Payton Chester

Payton Chester, a 13-year-old basketball player, and her mother, Sarah, were also passengers on the helicopter.

Payton aspired to play basketball in high school and college, according to her uncle Andy George. In an interview with the Orange County Register, he described his sister, Sarah Chester, as “the one everyone counted on.”

Christina Mauser

Christina Mauser, 38, was an assistant basketball coach at the Mamba Sports Academy who had been personally selected for the job by Kobe Bryant, according to her husband, Matt. 

"He picked her because she was amazing," Matt Mauser said during an interview with the “TODAY” show. "I was so proud of her and she was so happy.” Christina Mauser leaves behind the couple's three children.

Ara Zobayan

Ara Zobayan was a certified commercial pilot, flight instructor and ground instructor.

“He was always making sure that every box was checked and, and we never — we never — flew in something that wasn't comfortable," Jacob Chambers, Zobayan’s student, told NBC Los Angeles. "He was one of the best pilots I've flown with.” 

Who will be attending the Kobe Bryant memorial service?

Gwen Aviles

Few details about the memorial service have emerged, but it won’t just be close friends and family of the basketball star in attendance.

A number of Kobe Bryant’s fans will also be there, according to the event’s organizers, who had announced that fans could register for the Staples Center "Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" from Feb. 14 to 17. 

Tickets for the service ran between $24.02 to $224 in a tribute to uniform numbers worn by the all-time basketball great and his daughter. According to multiple reports, the number of fans who registered for the event exceeded the 20,000 seats available at the Staples Center and thousands of people were placed on a waitlist to purchase tickets.

Approved registrants received unique access codes via email Feb. 18 that they could use to purchase tickets starting the next day. 

The Los Angeles Lakers said that proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, formerly known as the Mamba Sports Foundation. 

Fans line up to get into the Staples Center to attend a public memorial for former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in Los Angeles on Feb. 24, 2020.Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

Kobe Bryant and Gianna were buried in a private ceremony

Gwen Aviles

While Monday marks the public memorial service, Kobe Bryant and Gianna were buried in a private ceremony in Corona Del Mar, California, on Feb. 7. 

However, the Pacific View Memorial Park has not confirmed the exact location of their graves, leading hundreds of fans to leave flowers and other tributes at an incorrect location.

Gianna shared her father’s love of basketball and was a burgeoning athlete herself. Kobe Bryant credited his relationship with Gianna for reigniting his love of the sport after his retirement. His close relationships with Gianna and his three other daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, who was born in June, earned him the nickname “girl dad.”