"God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to him together," Vanessa said in a moving speech.
Los Angeles said goodbye to Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna "Gigi" Bryant during a public memorial service on Monday.
Taking place at the Staples Center -- known as "The House Kobe Built" during his years playing for the Los Angeles Lakers -- the 2-24-20 date of the Celebration of Life was a nod to both Bryants. 2 was Gigi's jersey number, 24 was Kobe's and 20 years signified how long Bryant played for the Lakers, as well as how long he and wife Vanessa Bryant were together.
Ticket prices were also a nod to both Bryants, as the 20,000 tickets sold ranged in price from $224 to $24.02. Proceeds from sales were donated to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, a charity founded by the late basketball icon and renamed following their deaths.
Kobe, his 13 year old daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. The two were buried on February 7 in a private funeral and are survived by Vanessa, Natalia, Bianka and Capri. Both Vanessa and Natalia were in attendance at the memorial.
The event was attended Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Kris Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, Michael Phelps, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, Magic Johnson, Dwyane Wade, Gabrielle Union and more.
Before the ceremony began, Jennifer Lopez, LeBron James and Chloe x Halle all shared tributes on social media. Lopez showed off her nails, which were adorned with the numbers 2 and 24, while Chloe x Halle posted a photo of Kobe and Gigi.
"our days are never promised. give love as much as you can, tell the ones you love that you do everyday," the wrote, "gianna x kobe."
Kevin Hart also shared a photo of the two, saying he was "still having trouble processing this." His message continued, "life is so short & can be taken for granted. Please love while you can...Please communicate with your friends & family while you can....Grudges are whack as hell. Move on & Move beyond....My prayers are still with the families of all of the passengers that were on that helicopter. Kobe your legacy & mentality will live forever... RIP #LiveLoveLaugh"
The ceremony began at 10:30 AM PT with a moving perforce from Beyonce, who sang "XO" in a Lakers gold suit while surrounded by a choir in all-white. "I'm here because I love Kobe and this was one of his favorite songs, so I want to start that over but I want us to do it all together. I want you to sing it so loud, they hear your love," she explained.
After the first song, she then went into an emotional rendition of "Halo," with the camera briefly showing Vanessa and Natalia in the audience. A montage of Kobe's professional highlights and touching footage of him with Gigi was then shown, set to Maroon 5's "Memories."
Jimmy Kimmel, "another good friend" of the family, then came on stage, his voice cracking as he listed the names of everyone lost in the crash. "This is a sad day, but it is also a celebration of life, of their lives and of life itself in the building where those of us who are Lakers fans and Kobe fans celebrated so many of the best times of our lives," he continued.
"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 continued through tears, before praising some of the street art around the country and the world celebrating the two.
"I was trying to find something positive to come away with this ... the best thing I was able to come up with was this: Gratitude," he added. "It seems to me all we can do is be grateful for the time we had with them and the time we have left with each other, and that's all." He then asked everyone in the audience to take a moment and say hello to those around them. The stadium then erupted into cheers of "Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!"
With that, Vanessa then came out on stage, as the crowd gave her a standing ovation.
"First, I'd like to thank everyone for coming today. The outpouring of love and support my family has felt from around the world has been so uplifting," she began. "Thank you so much for all your prayers. I'd like to talk about both Kobe and Gigi, but I'll start with my baby girl first."
"My baby girl, Gianna Bryant is amazingly sweet and gentle soul, she was always thoughtful, she always kissed me goodnight and kissed me good morning. There were a few occasions I was absolutely tired from being up with Bianka and Capri and I thought she had left to school without saying goodbye. I text and say, 'No kiss?' And Gianna would reply with, 'Mama, I kissed you, but you were asleep and I didn't want to wake you.'"
"She was daddy's girl, but I know she loved her mama. She would always tell me and show me how much she loved me. She was one of my very best friends," she continued, before sharing Gianna's love of baking and movie and TV nights with her family. "Gigi was very competitive like her daddy, but Gianna had a sweet grace about her. Her smile was like sunshine, her smile took up her entire face, like mine. Kobe always said she was me, she had my fire, my personality and sarcasm. She was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. It was infectious, it was pure and genuine."
"I loved the way she looked up at me while hugging me. We loved each other so much, I miss her so much. I miss her sweet kisses, I miss her cleverness, I miss her sarcasm, her wit and that adorable sly side smile, followed with a grin and burst of laughter," she went on. "Gigi was sunshine. She brightened up my day everyday. I miss looking at her beautiful face. She was always so good, a rule follower ... she was the most loving daughter, thoughtful little sister and silly big sister."
"We will not be able to see Gigi go to high school with Natalia and ask her how her day went. We did not get the chance to teach her how to drive a car," she said, choking up. "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, dance on the dance floor with me or have babies of her own. Gianna would have been an amazing mommy. She was very maternal ever since she was very little. Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA. She would have made a huge difference for women's basketball. Gigi was motivated to change the way women were viewed in sports."
Of Gigi, she concluded by saying, "I cannot imagine life without her. I will miss your sweet handmade cards, your sweet kisses and your gorgeous smile. I miss you, all of you, every day. I love you."
Cookie & I were blown away by the strength, grace & courage shown by Vanessa Bryant as she memorialized her husband & daughter. The personal stories & beautiful family memories she shared provided comfort as she opened a window into their lives & the love of their family.
"I couldn't see him as a celebrity, nor just an incredible basketball player. He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father to my children," she said. "He was mine, he was my everything. I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidant and his protector. He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words."
Calling him a "gentlemen," she called him the romantic in their relationship. "He gifted me the actual notebook and the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in 'The Notebook' movie," she revealed. "We had hoped to grow old together like the movie, we really had an amazing love story."
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She said before he passed, Kobe said he wanted to spend more time together alone. "We never got the chance to do it," she said. "We were too busy taking care of our girls ... but I'm thankful I have that recent text. It means so much to me. Kobe wanted us to renew our vows. He wanted Natalia to take over his company and we wanted to travel the world together."
"Kobe was the MVP of Girl Dads. He never left the toilet seat up, he always told the girls how beautiful and smart they are. He taught them how to be brave and how to keep pushing forward when things got tough," she said. Vanessa continued to celebrate how great a father was, sharing their love of films and hopes for Bianka and Capri to also take up basketball.
"I'm so thankful Kobe heard Coco say 'Dada,'" she said. "He isn't going to be here to walk our girls down the aisle or spin me around on the dance floor while singing PYT to me. But I want my daughters to know and remember the amazing person, husband and father he was."
In closing, she called them both "funny, happy, silly" and said they each "loved life."
They were so full of joy and adventure. God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to him together," she said. "Baby, you take care of our Gigi. We're still the best team. We love and miss you, Boo Boo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again some day. We love you both and miss you, forever and always."
The strength and grace Vanessa Bryant is displaying right now...
The strength and grace that Vanessa Bryant has displayed in this time of unbelievable tragedy blows my mind. She is truly a queen. #RIPKobe #RIPGIANNA and may everyone who lost their life that day Rest In Peace and paradise.
WNBA star Diana Taurasi, who Kobe dubbed the "White Mamba," was next to take the stage, followed by Sabrina Ionescu, who considered Bryant a personal mentor. Geno Auriemma -- coach of the women's basketball team at UCONN, where Gianna hoped to play for the Huskies -- gave a speech shortly after.
All three of them paid tribute to both Kobe and his daughter and their love of the game and each other and how they inspired a new generation of women.
It's so meaningful that brilliant female athletes like Diana Taurasi and Sabrina Ionescu are getting this opportunity to discuss their relationship with Kobe. People need to see his support of female athletes went beyond just having a daughter. #ForKobeAndGigi
General Manager of the Lakers Rob Pelinka -- who was also one of Kobe's best friends and godfather to Gigi -- then came on stage to remember "Kobe the best friend, Kobe the dad and Kobe the husband"
Pelinka revealed Kobe had been texting him from the helicopter before the crash. "The girl in that text chain that he was wanting to help so badly was Lexi Altobelli," he said. Altobelli's father, mother and younger sister were among the nine killed in the accident. He added, "Kobe's last human act was heroic, he wanted to use his platform to bless and shape a young girl's future."
"Kobe and Gigi will continue to shine light on all of us. But unlike the sun, Kobe and Gigi's fuel will never ever burn out, because their light is eternal," he said in closing. "With Kobe and Gigi's moonlight, we will never have to live in the darkness of night again. We will all journey on, until one day will will be in heaven together again and this time it will be forever."
That was followed by Alicia Keys playing a version of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata -- which Kobe reportedly learned to play himself by ear -- before Michael Jordan gave one helluva speech.
"I'm grateful to be here to honor Gigi and celebrate the gift that Kobe gave us all. What he accomplished as a basketball player, as a businessman, as a storyteller and as a father," he began. "In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank. He left it all on the floor."
Saying Kobe was like his "little brother," he added that he "wanted to be the best big brother that I could be." He then brought some much-needed levity to the room as tears streamed down his face. "Now he's got me, I'll have to look at another crying meme," he joked. "I told my wife I wasn't going to do this because I didn't want to see that for the next 2-3 years. That it what Kobe Bryant does to me."
Jordan just repped the new crying meme that is sure to come from his speech today. 😂❤️#KobeFarewell
I had no idea #MichaelJordan was such a great and entertaining public speaker. And it sounds like it's all off the top of his head. It's a gift to be this funny and loving and inspiring off the top of your head. #KobeFarewell
Shaquille O'Neal then reflected on their days together as Lakers, saying the two had a deep "respect" for each other.
He also got the first bleep of the ceremony, saying he once approached Kobe to tell him to pass the ball. "Kobe, you know there's no 'I' in 'team,'" he recalled telling him. "I know, but there's an 'M-E' in that, mother fucker,'" Bryant allegedly responded, getting huge laughs from the audience.
His speech was followed by a performance from Christina Aguilera, who wore all black as she sang "Ave Maria."
After his Oscar-winning short "Dear Basketball" was shown, Kimmel ended the Celebration of Life by telling everyone to "Work hard and hug the people you love."