"Jimmy Kimmel Live!" had no studio audience or guests Monday. Instead, the late-night host devoted his hourlong show to Kobe Bryant, fighting back tears as he commemorated him while playing clips from the many times the basketball legend appeared on his show.
"Going forward with a comedy show didn’t feel right considering what happened yesterday," Kimmel said of the Sunday helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, that killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others.
An emotional Kimmel described the crash as "a punch in the gut for many of us," saying, "I know this might not make sense, but he was just the last person you could ever imagine something like this happening to."
"He was so strong and handsome and smart and energetic," Kimmel said. "He was a hero."
Kimmel, who films his show in Los Angeles, where Bryant played for the Lakers, said the five-time NBA champion had been on his show 15 times and had a special relationship with the city.
"We also loved him because he was ours," Kimmel said. "We watched him grow up here. He came to L.A. when he was a teenager, and unlike almost every other superstar athlete, he never left."
Jimmy Fallon also paid tribute to Bryant on Monday's episode of "The Tonight Show," telling a story about their first meeting when Bryant was 17 and Fallon was 21.
"Kobe was such a life force, so strong and creative and inspired that in my head I thought he was going to live forever," Fallon said.
Like Kimmel, Fallon struggled not to cry during his tribute, calling Bryant "one of the most brilliant and respected players in NBA history."
"I think I knew Kobe enough to know he rose to any challenge by digging deeper and getting back to work," Fallon said. "So let's honor Kobe, Gianna, and the other lives that we lost yesterday by following his example. Love your family, love your teammates, and outwork everyone else in the gym."
On "The Ellen Show" Monday, Ellen DeGeneres also said the tragedy should be a reminder of why people need to celebrate life, referencing that her 62nd birthday fell on the day Bryant died.
"Life is short and it’s fragile, and we don’t know how many birthdays we get, so just — you don’t have to have a birthday to celebrate — just celebrate life,” she said. “And if you haven’t told someone you love them, do it now … Call your friends, text your friends, kiss them, be nice to the people at the DMV.”