Kobe and Gigi Bryant memorial: Speeches recalled a bright daughter and devoted father


Follow Kobe Bryant’s memorial live with a team of Los Angeles Times reporters inside Staples Center.

Rewatch the memorial here:


Jimmy Kimmel, Jennifer Lopez, Snoop Dogg among the celebs at Kobe Bryant memorial - 12: 41 p.m.

LOS ANGELES, CA., Alicia Keys performs at The Kobe & Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life on Monday at Staples Center on Monday 24, 2020 (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
LOS ANGELES, CA., Alicia Keys performs at The Kobe & Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life on Monday at Staples Center on Monday 24, 2020 (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times/Los Angeles Times)

Jennifer Lopez’s face said it all while Vanessa Bryant spoke about daughter Gianna and husband Kobe Bryant during the memorial for the two held Monday.

Tears streamed down the entertainer’s face and her lower lip trembled as she tried to hold it together, boyfriend Alex Rodriguez by her side.

At the memorial, celebrities and sports stars dotted the floor seats at Staples Center.


— Christie D’Zurilla


Michael Jordan tells about Kobe Bryant and their brotherly love - 12:32 p.m.

Retired US basketball player Michael Jordan cries as he speaks during the "Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" service at Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles on February 24, 2020. - Kobe Bryant, 41, and 13-year-old Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in the rugged hills west of Los Angeles on January 26. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Michael Jordan grew up with four biological siblings, but he did not have a younger brother.

Late in his playing career, after he had emerged as arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, that changed for Jordan, whether he liked it at the time or not. This kid, Kobe Bryant, was a teenage phenom with the Lakers, and he idolized Jordan. What everyone could see, including Jordan, was that Kobe was also coming for his throne.

“He was like a little brother,” Jordan said during Monday’s Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant at Staples Center. “You know all of us have brothers, little brothers, little sisters, that for whatever reason tend to get in your stuff, your closets, your shoes, everything ... it was a nuisance, if I can use that word. But that nuisance turned into love over a period of time, just because of the admiration they had for you, as big brothers, big sisters. The questions, the wanting to know every little detail about life they were about to embark on ... he used to call me, text me, 11:30, 2:30, 3:30 in the morning, talking about post-up moves, footwork, and sometimes, the triangle [offense]. At first, it was an aggravation.

“But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had a passion like you would never know. ... What Kobe Bryant was for me was the inspiration that someone truly cared about the way I played the game or the way that he wanted to play the game. He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be, and, as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.”

Jordan, fighting tears and wiping them from his face throughout his remembrance, spoke with his trademark honesty. You could feel the tough love.

“To do that,” he continued, “you had to put up with the aggravation, the late night calls or the dumb questions. I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant that he was just trying to be a better person, a better basketball player. We talked about business, we talked about family, we talked about everything, and he was just trying to be a better person.

“Now, he’s got me ... I got to look at another crying meme for the next ...”

This “Crying Jordan” laughed, along with thousands in the arena.

“I told my wife I wasn’t going to do this because I didn’t want to see that for the next three or four years,” he said. “That is what Kobe Bryant does to me. He knows how to get to you in a way that effects you personally, even if he’s being a pain in the ass. He can bring out the best in you, and he did that for me.”

— J. Brady McCollough

Shaq shares witty encounter with Kobe Bryant - 12:32 p.m.

Memorial viewing in Santa Ana brings people from as far as Alabama - 12:12 p.m.

Hermelindo Saldana slowly walked inside the Santa Ana Council Chambers. He held his Lakers’ beanie in one hand and a blue thermos in the other as he made his way to the front, taking up on of the three single seats of room.

He sat quietly and stared at the large screen projector at the front that was live streaming the memorial of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Saldana, 50, wished he was at the Staples Center, mourning with hundreds of others Lakers fans. But he was unable to get tickets. He also didn’t want his three children to skip school.

When his children went to school in the morning, they even asked him if he was still going to try and go. He told them no, not without them.

But at home, he didn’t want to be alone. He didn’t want to mourn by himself in front of his tv in an apartment. So he drove a mile to Santa Ana City Hall where the viewing of today’s memorial would be showing.

“I wanted to be be sad with others,” he said. Saldana said Bryant’s death hit him hard.

More than 50 people attended the Kobe and Gianna Bryant memorial viewing at city hall. They sat around in groups, in pairs, alone. Some came with their little children.

They came from within Santa Ana and as far as Alabama.

Among them was Aleisha Levett, 36, and Diana Isom, 22. The two women each spent about $1,000 or more just to be in California for today’s memorial.

Initially, the women were trying to get tickets to attend the memorial at the Staples Center but were unable to.

Ism said she almost lost $170 to a scammer who was selling a ticket. She was able to get $150 back.

“There are people out there scamming off someone’s death,” Isom said. “It’s craziness.”

The women arrived in Los Angeles from Alabama this weekend.

Walking around the room greeting people was Santa Ana Councilman Vicente Sarmiento. He shook Saldana’s hand and thanked him for coming. Saldana told him, he was glad the city had put together the event.

“We have to be sad together but also be here to celebrate life together,” Sarmiento told him.

— Ruben Vives

Here’s that blue dress from ‘The Notebook’ that Kobe Bryant gave to Vanessa - 12:11 p.m.

During a heartbreaking tribute to Kobe Bryant, his widow, Vanessa Bryant, tearfully remembered the gifts her late husband gave her years ago in a nod to the romantic 2004 film “The Notebook,” starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.

At Monday’s memorial at Staples Center, Bryant honored the late basketball star as “charismatic,” “adoring” and “loving.”

“He was truly the romantic one in our relationship,” Bryant said, adding that Kobe loved romantic comedies like “Stepmom,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Little Women.”


— Dorany Pineda

Sabrina Ionescu talks about what Kobe Bryant meant to her - 12:11 p.m.

Growing up, I only knew one way to play the game of basketball: fierce with obsessive focus. I was unapologetically competitive. I wanted to be the best. I loved the work, even when it was hard, especially if it was hard.

I knew I was different, that my drive was different. I grew up watching Kobe Bryant game after game ring after ring, living his greatness without apology. I wanted to be just like him, to love every part of the competition, to be the first to show up and the last to leave, to love the grind, to be your best when you don’t feel your best and make other people around you the best version of themselves. And to wake up and do it again the next day.

So that’s what I did. Wake up, grind and get better. Wake up, grind and get better.


Read Geno Auriemma’s speech from the Kobe Bryant memorial - 11:56 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, CA., Geno Auriemma speaks at the Kobe & Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life on Monday at Staples Center on Monday 24, 2020 (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
LOS ANGELES, CA., Geno Auriemma speaks at the Kobe & Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life on Monday at Staples Center on Monday 24, 2020 (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times/Los Angeles Times)

“We have some amazing women in this room and you just heard from three of them. I’m Geno Auriemma the coach of the UConn women’s basketball program.

A lot of people are going to talk about basketball today. And I don’t know that that’s why I’m here. I’m not here for the basketball court and tried to write a long flowing speech about basketball and I can’t do it. There’s too many thoughts in my head. Ever since Vanessa asked me to speak too many things that made me realize more that I’m here as a father, not as a basketball coach. And us Italians as these just shows you, very, we’re very, very emotional people right Mike, he’s half Italian.

So the thoughts that I started to have. After I was asked to speak. We’re obviously about all the people that were on board. And if you’re a father, a grandfather. You feel a different a different kind of emotion when there’s children involved. Because this is always about the children. We’ve lived our lives. We have a little bit left, they’re just starting their lives. And then my next thought came to the original team that Kobe was responsible for Natalia, Bianca, Capri, Vanessa.


Rob Pelinka says ‘Kobe’s last human act was heroic’ - 11:55 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Rob Pelinka was in church on the morning of Sunday Jan. 26 when he got a text message from his best friend, Kobe Bryant.

Bryant was asking Pelinka, his former agent, if he knew a baseball agent based in Southern California. Pelinka, telling this story at the “Celebration of Life” for Kobe and Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Monday morning, said he responded that he had just seen this agent at a Lakers’ game and that he was happy to help him.

At just past 9:30 a.m., Bryant told Pelinka that he wanted to help a daughter of a friend get an internship with a baseball agency. Pelinka said he would put a plan in place to help him get that done.

“A handful of minutes later,” Pelinka said, “Kobe and Gianna and seven other beautiful souls ascended into heaven. Kobe had been texting me from the helicopter.”

Pelinka would later discover that the girl whom Bryant wanted to help was 16-year-old Alexis Altobelli, the surviving daughter of John and Keri Altobelli, who died in the Calabasas helicopter crash along with their daughter, Alyssa.

“Kobe’s last human act was heroic,” Pelinka said. “He wanted to use his platform to bless and shape a young girl’s future. Hasn’t Kobe done that for all of us?”

— J. Brady McCollough

Read WNBA star Diana Taurasi’s words about Kobe Bryant - 11:47 a.m.

My name is Diana Taurasi.

Thanks, Jimmy. You stole my first joke. I am the “White Mamba”.

I would first like to offer my deepest condolences to all the families who’ve lost a loved one. In 1996, I was a lanky awkward freshman in high school, obsessively shooting night after night in my driveway. On the nights the Lakers played, I wouldn’t miss a second of the game. Every timeout, every commercial, I’d run to the front yard to imitate my favorite Laker, Kobe.


Read Vanessa Bryant’s words about Kobe Bryant at memorial - 11:42 a.m.

Vanessa Bryant at the Kobe & Gianna Bryant 'Celebration of Life' ceremony at Staples Center
Vanessa Bryant at the Kobe & Gianna Bryant ‘Celebration of Life’ ceremony at Staples Center.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times/Los Angeles Times)

Okay. Now for my soul mate. Kobe was known as a fierce competitor on the basketball court. The greatest of all time, a writer and Oscar winner, and the black mamba. But to me, he was Kobe-Kobe, my boo-boo, my bay-boo. My Papi chulo. I was his Vivi his Principesa, his reina his queen Mamba. and is the Friski-mineski, dabeli-ski. I couldn’t see him as a celebrity, nor just an incredible basketball player.

He was my sweet husband, and the beautiful Father of our children. He was mine. He was my everything. Kobe and I have been together since I was 17 and a half years old. I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend. His confidant, and his protector. He was the most amazing husband Koby let me more than I could ever express or put into words. He was the early bird, and I was the night owl. I was fired he was ice and vice versa at times,we balanced each other out. He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe. He was charismatic, a gentleman. He was loving adoring and romantic.


‘White Mamba’ Diana Taurasi talks Kobe, Gianna and love of basketball - 11:35 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: Diana Taurasi speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

To remember the Black Mamba, the Bryant family turned to the “White Mamba.”

Diana Taurasi, the WNBA superstar, was given that nickname by Kobe himself, and she took the stage at Staples Center on Monday morning after Vanessa Bryant to tell the story of how her love of Kobe drove her as a teenager with big basketball dreams while living in Chino.

“He made it OK to play with an edge that borderlined crazy,” Taurasi said.

Taurasi said she still ends every workout with an imitation of a classic Kobe game-winner.

“Three hard dribbles going right, left foot plant, pivot, swing right leg through, elevate, square up, follow through,” she said. “Five in a row, and I got to go home.”

Taurasi said 13-year-old Gianna “represents the future of women’s basketball” in that she was excited to play in the WNBA, not hoping to be the first female NBA player as Taurasi did in the mid-1990s.

“She represents a time where a young girl doesn’t need permission to play,” she said. “Her skill would command respect.”

Taurasi said Gianna’s goal was to play college basketball at Connecticut, like Taurasi.

— J. Brady McCollough

Video: Kobe Bryant calls Diana Taurasi the ‘White Mamba’ - 11:17 a.m.

Read Vanessa Bryant’s emotional speech about her daughter Gianna - 11:16 a.m.

“Thank you. Thank you all so much for being here. Thanks so much to us. First, I’d like to thank everyone for coming today, the outpouring of love and support that my family has felt from around the world has been so uplifting. Thank you so much for all your prayers.

I’d like to talk about both Kobe and Gigi. I’ll start with my baby girl first. My baby girl Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet, gentle soul. She was always thoughtful. She always would kiss me goodnight, kiss me good morning.

There were a few occasions where I was absolutely tired from being up with Bianca and Capri. And I thought she had left school without saying goodbye. I would text and say no kiss? And Giana would reply with Mama, I kissed you. You were asleep, and I didn’t want to wake you. She knew how much her morning and evening kisses meant to me, and she was so thoughtful to remember to kiss me every day.


Kobe Bryant’s special connection with Latinos inspired fan to design quinceañera dress - 11:12 a.m.

Franchesca Flores, 43, from Littleton Colorado, arrived at Staples Center dressed in a hand-painted purple ball gown with game images of Kobe and Gianna Bryant shooting hoops.

Flores — whose business is commissioning and selling custom gowns for beauty pageants, quinceañeras and other events — said she designed the dress and had it made by a tailor in Mexico because Kobe had done so much for the Latinx community.

“I want people to know he’s gone but he will be staying here forever,” she said.

Franchesca Flores, 43, of Littleton Colorado arrived outside Staples Center in a hand-painted purple ball gown with images of Kobe and Gianna Bryant shooting hoops.
Franchesca Flores, 43, of Littleton Colorado arrived outside Staples Center in a hand-painted purple ball gown with images of Kobe and Gianna Bryant shooting hoops.
(Gale Holland)

— Gale Holland

Read Jimmy Kimmel’s opening speech at Kobe and Gianna’s Bryant memorial - 11:07 a.m.

“Well you picked the wrong person to guide you through I’m going to tell you that right now. I want to thank everyone for being here and thank you for gathering to celebrate the lives of Alyssa Altobelli. Her parents John and Keri Altobelli, and Payton Chester, her mother Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan, Gigi Bryant, and her father, Kobe Bryant.

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. And I’m honored to have been asked to speak here. The proceeds from the tickets you bought go directly to the Mamba [&] Mambacita Sports Foundation, which supports youth sports in underserved communities.

And I also encourage you to go to, to give to the Mamba On Three Fund, which was created to honor and provide financial support to the Chester, Altobelli, Zobayan and Mauser families. I can only imagine how painful this is for them. I don’t think any of us could have imagined this.


Vanessa Bryant calls daughter Gigi ‘our shepherd’ - 11:05 a.m.

For so many, Gianna Bryant was a basketball player. Her mother, Vanessa, is making sure we know that this girl was so much, much, much more.

“Gigi was sunshine. She brightened up my day everyday,” said Vanessa, showing a grace and poise that’s superhuman.

Vanessa added: “She was our shepherd.”

— Dan Woike

Here’s how Kobe memorial speaker Jimmy Kimmel remembered Bryant on his show - 10:53 a.m.

Beyoncé kicks off Kobe Bryant memorial with one of his favorite songs - 10:51 a.m.

Beyoncé, backed by a choir, kicked off the Kobe Bryant memorial on Monday, capping a friendship that had lasted for decades. But she stopped singing almost immediately and invited the audience to join her in song.

“I’m here because I love Kobe. And this was one of his favorite songs,” Beyoncé said as she introduced a spectral rendition of “XO,” from her 2013 self-titled album.

“In the darkest night hour (in the darkest night hour) / I’ll search through the crowd (I’ll search through the crowd) / Your face is all that I see,” she sang, surrounded by string players and a small choir all clad in white, before transitioning to “Halo,” a tearjerker from 2008’s “I Am ... Sasha Fierce.”


— Christie D’Zurilla

Fan travels across country to showcase customized casket with replica of Staples Center’s court - 10:50 a.m.

Casketmaker Fletcher Collins drove his truck from Elizabeth City, N.C. to Los Angeles and parked outside of Staples Center to showcase a customized casket he created in tribute to Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

He unloaded the casket and soon after, fans crowded around to take pictures.

The casket has splashes of yellow and purple, and has replica NBA trophies on top. Inside, it’s a replica of Staples Center’s court, even complete with a mini video board.

Collins said he prayed on the design, and God gave him the vision to complete it.

“When He gave me the dream on it, that’s when everything started to unfold,” said Collins, who’s been a casketmaker for three years.

It took about three days to build the piece, and then it took about a week to dive it to L.A., Collins said. Every time they stopped to get gas, he said they received compliments from people.

“I didn’t write anything down — it all came from God. Three days later, this is what we finished.”

— Emmanuel Morgan

Beyoncé and Kobe Bryant went way back - 10:42 a.m.

Beyoncé opened the Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, performing the songs “XO” and “Halo.”

Here’s what Beyoncé had to say on Instagram following the Jan. 26 death of her longtime friend.

“I will continue to diligently pray for your Queens. You are deeply missed beloved Kobe,” she wrote of Bryant, who appeared in the video for the Destiny’s Child song “Bug A Boo” and rapped on a remix of the group’s song “Say My Name.”

— Chuck Schilken

Vanessa Bryant and her daughters enter to standing ovation - 10:37 a.m.

When Vanessa Bryant and her three daughters entered Staples Center, the crowd, anxiously awaiting the start of the Kobe and Gianna Bryant “Celebration of Life” on Monday morning, honored them with a standing ovation.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, Kobe’s one-time agent and close friend, accompanied the Bryant family to their seats.

— J. Brady McCollough

Beyoncé performs as many of the greatest names in NBA history attend Kobe Bryant’s memorial - 10:24 a.m.

The list of basketball dignitaries that have filed into Staples Center and are taking their seats for the “Kobe and Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life” on Monday morning continues to grow.

So far: Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Phil Jackson, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, Steph Curry, James Harden, Byron Scott, Lamar Odom, Vlade Divac, Devin Booker and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

Beyoncé performed the first song of the memorial service.

— J. Brady McCollough

Memorial set to start at 10:30 a.m. after slight delay - 10:22 a.m.

Sabrina Ionescu remembers her mentor, Kobe Bryant, in an open letter - 10:18 a.m

When Sabrina Ionescu found out about Kobe Bryant’s death last month, the Oregon basketball star wondered what she was going to do without the guidance of the man she considered a mentor.

Ionescu also asked herself what she describes as an “angrier” question: “How could the world have brought me together with someone like Kobe, someone who understood me so well — maybe the first person in my life who truly got me on this deeper basketball level — only to then rip him out of my life after less than a year?! And why?!”

“It just felt cruel,” Ionescu wrote on the Players’ Tribune. “It still feels that way.”

Ionescu’s open letter was posted Monday, the same day a public memorial was held for Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna — two of the nine people who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas last month — at Staples Center. She wrote that her memories of Bryant have helped her deal with those angry thoughts and realize there was definitely a reason their lives intersected, even for such a short time.


— Chuck Schilken

Attendees at memorial to receive special program honoring Kobe and Gianna Bryant - 10:12 a.m.

Long lines at Staples Center as attendees wait to enter memorial - 10:05 a.m.

Admirer to release 26 doves in honor of Kobe and Gianna - 9:54 a.m.

Alexander Vazquez of West Los Angeles brought 26 doves — 24 for Kobe and two for Gianna — he plans to release at 9:55 a.m.

The birds are from a family business and they are usually set off for weddings and funerals, he said.

This time it’s personal and he’s doing it on his own.

“This is a free event for me,” Vazquez said. “I always wanted a dad like him. I had a drunk dad three but not there. Kobe was the complete opposite of that.”

Vazquez said he is also trying to be a different dad for his 10-year-old daughter.

— Gale Holland

Vanessa Bryant files wrongful death lawsuit against helicopter operator - 9:51 a.m.

As mourners gathered at Staples Center on Monday for a memorial service celebrate the lives of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, attorneys for Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that operated the helicopter that crashed last month and claimed the lives of her husband, daughter and seven other people.

The complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corp. alleged that pilot Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash, failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” and was “negligent.”


— Nathan Fenno

Inside Staples Center, red flowers and photos of Kobe Byrant’s family decorated center court - 9:30 a.m.

As people trickled inside the Staples Center, they were greeted by center court stage surrounded with red flowers and images of Kobe Bryant and his family on the overheard video board.

The mood outside the arena was like a subdued game day, but inside it had the reverence of a church with Alicia Keys’ music.

Ray and LaVonna King took the train from San Diego at dawn to celebrate the life of a family hero. The Kings picked up their programs, pins and t-shirts with Kobe and Giana’s numbers on the back and entered the arena.

“It is just an awesome honor to be able to here,” said LaVonna King, clad in a t-shirt recapping Kobe’s career statistics.

“But it a sad day for everyone to come together and say their prayers for the families,” said Ray King. “It is going to be a hard day for everyone involved.”

— Richard Winton

Fans pay tribute to late Kobe Bryant before memorial - 8:55 a.m.

Hours before Staples Center opened its doors to begin its memorial for the late Kobe Bryant, fans paid tribute to the basketball superstar.

Ozzie Arnold drove his pickup truck with a trailer from Wilmington, Calif. and parked it a few blocks from Staples Center. Later, he unloaded a personalized golf cart with a lift kit and large tires with purple and yellow rims.

The base of the cart was purple with a Lakers logo and No.32 and No.24 on the hood, symbolizing the jersey numbers of Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant.

Arnold, 66, said he was devastated the day Bryant died. He had been working on the golf cart for about 6 years, but never had a chance to ride it around in public.

“This is the one day I could do this,” he said. “Every other day it’s covered up.”

So he grabbed his dog and drove along the perimeter of Staples Center, capturing much of the crowds attention. He said he intends to do it in Bryant’s memory and to lighten the mood of the day.

“It’s Kobe Day,” he said. “It’s the last day we have to celebrate his life. It’s a sad day, but it’s a happy day.”

— Emmanuel Morgan

Guests arriving for memorial greeted with gifts - 8:48 a.m.

A look at the gifts given to those in attendance at the Kobe and Gigi Bryant "Celebration of Life" at Staples Center.
(Dan Woike / Los Angeles Times)

Guests arriving for the “Celebration of Life” for Kobe and Gigi Bryant were greeted with gifts this morning upon arriving at the gate.

As well as a T-shirt feauring Kobe and Gigi, there was a program full of photos and a special ticket: Section 8, Row 24, Seat 2. There was also a commemorative “KB” pin.

— Broderick Turner

Attendees at Kobe and Gigi Bryant memorial receive special t-shirt - 8:45 a.m.

Fan remembers favorite interactions with late Kobe Bryant - 8:35 a.m.

Ben Morrison drove to Staples Center from Newport Beach to attend Kobe Bryant’s memorial service, which was extra personal to him compared to others.

The 21-year-old attended Bryant’s church, and remembers seeing him all the time, but didn’t talk to him as often as he wanted.

The one personal interaction he had with him happened during an Independence Day holiday, when he saw Bryant buy $40 worth of fireworks.

Morrison said Bryant gave the cashier a $100 bill and told him to “keep the change.” He also remembers Bryant having the newer iPhone version.

“He was a baller,” Morrison said as he walked toward Staples Center in a yellow No.8, Bryant’s Lakers jersey.

Morrison got a $24 ticket to the event, and said it was important for him to come so he could get closure.

“I think it’s powerful to come here with so many different people who are feeling the same way I’m feeling.”

— Emmanuel Morgan

Thousands of fans wait in line outside Staples Center for Kobe Bryant memorial - 8:16 a.m.

LOS ANGELES CA FEBRUARY 24, 2020 -- Fans gather outside Staples Center the the 'Celebration of Life' for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, honoring the late NBA legend and his 13-year-old daughter who died along with seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas last month. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
LOS ANGELES CA FEBRUARY 24, 2020 -- Fans gather outside Staples Center the the ‘Celebration of Life’ for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, honoring the late NBA legend and his 13-year-old daughter who died along with seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas last month. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

Thousands of fans waited on a cold morning outside the doors of the house that Kobe Bryant built clad in black, purple and gold.

They stood almost silent, respectful. It wasn’t like a game day.

Berly Schwartz accompanied by her son Bun Garcia stood in line outside Staples Center, her voice breaking as she spoke.

“I am just so emotional,” she said, showing pictures on her cellphone of her husband, Sam Schwartz, with a framed Kobe 24 shirt. “I came to Kobe’s games with my husband. He died two years ago. He loved Kobe and the Lakers.”

“I think of the families. It is so hard for them,” she said. “My husband and I come to a lot of Kobe’s games. We’d get tickets through brokers.”

“I feel numb still,” said her son Bun of Anaheim, clad in his Lakers jacket. “I don’t know if the numbness will ever go away for L.A.”

He said “at first people thought maybe they are wrong. Maybe Kobe isn’t dead. Today really brings home the reality.”

For Berly and Bun, Bryant was part of the life they loved with Sam. “My husband would be so mad to lose Kobe,” she said.

The crowd outside Staples waiting in line was subdued, many wearing black with the colors of the Lakers.

Rosa Arangure drove all the way from San Diego and was dressed for a funeral and could barely speak as a tear rolled down her cheek from behind her dark large sunglasses.

“It is terrible for everyone,” Arangure said. “Right now people are around the families but it will get difficult for them in the months. It is difficult for all Lakers fans to accept what happened.”

Arangure said her niece was hoping to play with Gianna Bryant one day.

— Richard Winton

Security is tight around Staples Center - 8:02 a.m.

Fans arrive early outside Staples Center for the 'Celebration of Life 'for Kobe and Gianna Bryant
Fans arrive early outside Staples Center for the ‘Celebration of Life ‘for Kobe and Gianna Bryant Monday morning, February 24, 2020. (Andrew Gombert / Los Angeles Times)
(Andrew Gombert /Los Angeles Times)

Security is pretty tight. I had my ticket checked five times before I got in front of Staples Center.

There are lines of at least 50 people deep at every entrance before the doors were opened.

If you have a Kobe Bryant jersey, you’re wearing it today.

Purple, gold, white, black — if it has No. 8 or No. 24 on it and the name “Bryant” on the back, that’s what you have on — fewer people wearing black than you might expect.

— Dan Woike

Kobe Bryant memorial will honor Lakers legend’s career with more than 33,000 roses - 7:20 a.m.

Details regarding the Kobe Bryant memorial at Staples Center are starting to emerge.

In what likely will be one of the more visually stunning aspects of the service, the placement of more than 33,000 roses around the center stage will symbolize each of the points the Lakers legend scored during his career.

So far, the scene at L.A. Live is pretty quiet. Ticket holders for the memorial will be allowed into Staples Center at 8 a.m.

— Times staff

Fans urged to avoid Staples Center unless they have a ticket - 6:41 a.m.

Out of respect for the family of Kobe Bryant and the eight others killed last month in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, fans are being urged by police to stay away from Staples Center during Monday’s memorial unless they have a ticket.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore said Friday that unless visitors to the downtown Los Angeles venue were among the 20,000 ticketed mourners for the memorial, which begins at 10 a.m., they would not be allowed into the surrounding area, including L.A. Live.


Richard Winton