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The powerful symbolism of memorializing Kobe and Gigi Bryant on 2/24 at Staples Center

Kobe Bryant shares a laugh with his daughter, Gianna, while attending a women’s basketball game between Long Beach State and Oregon on Dec. 14, 2019.
Kobe Bryant shares a laugh with his daughter Gianna at a women’s basketball game between Long Beach State and Oregon on Dec. 14.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

There is a powerful symbolism in having the public memorial for Kobe Bryant on Feb. 24 at Staples Center.

First, consider the date. “24" was Bryant’s Lakers number, and “2" was the youth basketball number of his daughter Gigi, who died in last Sunday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas, along with the NBA great and seven others.

Staples Center is where Bryant created one of the greatest careers in professional basketball history and where, after his death, thousands of fans grieved for days and built a makeshift memorial.

Fans, several in Lakers jerseys, gather in front of balloons, flowers and other items in honor of Kobe Bryant.
A makeshift memorial to Kobe Bryant, fed by a steady stream of fans, grew day by day outside Staples Center.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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What do we know about the memorial?

The date was selected after discussions with Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, the Lakers organization and Staples Center. A source told The Times there will be no procession before the memorial, and the event will conclude in time to allow a previously scheduled Clippers game against the Memphis Grizzlies to go forward in the evening. The memorial will fall between two Lakers home games, one against the Boston Celtics and another against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Information about timing and tickets for the ceremony has not been released. With limited seating, however, entry is expected to be severely restricted, sources say.

On Thursday, Vanessa Bryant posted photos on her Instagram account of a memorial at Gigi’s school, where her “2" jersey was retired.

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“My Gigi. I love you! I miss you. You’ve taught us all that no act of kindness is ever too small. Mommy is still and will ALWAYS be so proud of you mamacita,” she wrote.

A man and woman in Lakers jerseys can be seen through purple and gold balloons among a crowd at L.A. Live.
Fans gather at a memorial for Kobe Bryant at L.A. Live on Feb. 2.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Why will the memorial be held at Staples Center?

The complex has become a go-to place for large public memorials.

In 2009, after Michael Jackson died, his memorial was held there. It was a big undertaking, and there were concerns about crowd control and traffic as throngs of fans were expected to converge on the downtown L.A. site.

“There’s no precedent for this,” one city official said at the time.

But the tribute was pulled off without major problems.

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The service was televised live around the globe. Fans started gathering outside Staples Center as early as 1 a.m. The lucky ones wore gold and silver wristbands, which designated them as the holders of approximately 17,500 tickets to the memorial service, given out through an online lottery.

Last year, slain rapper Nipsey Hussle was also remembered at Staples. His memorial was followed by a 25.5-mile procession through streets lined with people on foot, on motorcycles and doing wheelies on ATVs.

Last Friday, before a game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center, the Lakers put on an emotional tribute led by LeBron James to Bryant.

What should we expect at the Bryant memorial?

Few details have been made public. But Mayor Eric Garcetti said last week it would be a tribute to more than Bryant’s basketball career.

“I think one message that I would say is this is not just about a man who was a basketball player, this is about a father, this is about a leader, this is about a filmmaker, this is about an artist, this is about somebody who was so much more than just how he was on the court,” he told reporters.

“It’s a reminder how much unity we have, though. We are one city that believes in each other, believes in something bigger than ourselves and we will absolutely do everything to make sure that this is done so that everybody can come to it as well,” the mayor said.


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