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Kobe and Gianna memorial recap: Family, friends and NBA legends say their goodbyes

Vanessa Bryant, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal were among the speakers at a memorial service honoring the lives of Kobe and Gianna Bryant at Staples Center.

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)

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Fans flock to popular Kobe Bryant mural near Staples Center

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Thousands gathered to pay tribute to the Lakers star and his daughter, who were killed along with seven others last month in a helicopter crash.

A steady stream of fans poured near Staples Center into an alleyway across from the Los Angeles Convention Center to see one of several Kobe Bryant murals that have popped up around town since his helicopter crashed.

Patrick Titus, 25, of Lakewood, and Gabriel Real, 23, of Watts, had been driving around the city since 9 a.m. to visit different murals dedicated to Bryant and the other victims.

Real said it’s important to see the artwork others have done to honor Bryant, who was his favorite player. He even skipped school to watch Bryant’s final game with his uncle, who paid upwards of $1,600 for the pair of tickets.

When Real turns 24 this year — the “Kobe Year,” as it’s colloquially called — he said he will have a Lakers-themed party.

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After Kobe and Gianna Bryant memorial, attendees describe the experience as unforgettable

After Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s public memorial in Staples Center, fans who attended the ceremony described the experience as something they’d always remember.

John Ly, 35, of Arcadia, said he idolized Kobe Bryant from a young age and was especially moved by Michael Jordan’s speech.

“You had to be here to experience it,” Ly said as he left his seat. “For me the Michael Jordan tears and words were incredible. Michael Jordan was crying and I never knew how much he loved Kobe.”

Ly said it was obvious how much Bryant meant to Jordan and everyone else.

Another attendee, Scott Levester of Long Beach, said he worked a youth basketball camp with Bryant in 2018 and knew the Lakers legend’s passion first-hand for the youth game.

Levester said Rob Pelinka, general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, captured Levester’s attention with Pelinka’s speech because it spoke to his own experience.

Pelinka had told the memorial crowd that he was in church when Bryant texted him about helping John Altobelli’s daughter get an internship while he was in the helicopter moments before it crashed. Altobelli, a longtime Orange Coast College baseball coach, and his wife, Keri, 46, and their daughter Alyssa also died in the helicopter crash.

“I was in church,” Pelinka said. “Everybody was about to leave when the pastor says, everyone hold up, Kobe Bryant’s helicopter just crashed.”

Levester said it was a common experience to hear people share where they were when they heard the news.

The emotions were almost too much for Maria Jimenez, who said it was “something to behold and cherish in our hearts.”

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Read Shaquille O’Neal’s speech at Kobe Bryant’s memorial

NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal speaks at the Kobe and Gianna Bryant memorial service at Staples Center on Monday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

When I imagine speaking to a group of people about Kobe Bryant, I usually picture the context of his Hall of Fame induction or as a guest speaker at one of Kobe and Vanessa’s Foundation events. But never, ever could I have imagined that I’d be here today speaking at his memorial. And it pains me to my core. Like all of you, I continue to be devastated by the loss of my friend, my little brother Kobe Bryant and my beautiful niece Gigi.

To Vanessa and the kids, Kobe’s parents, sisters and the families who lost a loved one on that tragic day, we grieve with you. All of us were forever changed on January 26th. As we know, the Black Mamba’s legacy will be more than just being one of the greatest basketball players of all time. And believe me, Kobe was surely a gifted and intelligent student of the game. I remember him saying, “These guys are playing checkers, and I’m out here playing chess.”

And I would say, “I guess so, Kobe, I don’t know how to play chess.”

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Here’s what Michael Jordan said about his ‘little brother’ Kobe Bryant

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Vanessa Bryant, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal were among the speakers in the sold-out tribute.

I would say good morning but it’s afternoon. I’m grateful to Vanessa and Bryant family for the opportunity to speak today. 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, and a storyteller, and as a father.

In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank. He left it all on the floor.

Maybe it surprised people that Kobe and I were very close friends. But we were very close friends. Kobe was my dear friend, he was like a little brother. Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe. You know, all of us have brothers, sisters, little brothers, little sisters who, for whatever reason, always tend to get in your stuff, your closet, your shoes, everything. It was a nuisance, if I can say that word.

But that nuisance turned into love over a period of time, just because the admiration that they have for you as big brothers or big sisters, the questions, the wanting to know every little detail about life that they’re about to embark on. He used to call me, text me, 11:30, 2:30, 3 o’clock in the morning talking about post up moves footwork, and sometimes the training. At first, it was an aggravation. But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion that you would never know.

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Jimmy Kimmel, Jennifer Lopez, Snoop Dogg among the celebs at Kobe Bryant memorial

Alicia Keys preforms at The Kobe & Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life on Monday at Staples Center on Monday 24, 2020.
(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.

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Michael Jordan tells about Kobe Bryant and their brotherly love

Michael Jordan tries to compose himself during his speech about Kobe Bryant at Staples Center on Monday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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.”

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Shaquille O’Neal shares witty encounter with Kobe Bryant

Shaquille O'Neal speaks at the Kobe & Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life ceremony at Staples Center.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Shaquille O’Neal delivered the biggest smile of the day at the Kobe and Gianna Bryant memorial.

He said he once told Kobe Bryant, “There’s no ‘i’ in team.”

Bryant replied saying, “Yeah, but there’s an “m” and an “e” in motherf—.”

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Kobe and Gianna Bryant memorial viewing in Santa Ana brings people from as far as Alabama

Hermelindo Saldaña 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 one 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.

Saldaña, 50, wished he were at the Staples Center, mourning with thousands of other 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 to 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 sad with others,” he said. Saldaña 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 Santa Ana and from as far as Alabama.

Among them were 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 Staples Center but were unable to.

Isom 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 Saldaña’s hand and thanked him for coming. Saldaña 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.

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Here’s that blue dress from ‘The Notebook’ that Kobe Bryant gave to Vanessa

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

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.”

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Read Oregon basketball star Sabrina Ionescu’s speech from Kobe Bryant memorial

Sabrina Ionescu walks off stage after speaking at Kobe and Gianna Bryant's memorial service at Staples Center on Monday.
Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu walks off stage after speaking at Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s memorial service at Staples Center on Monday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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.

Photos: L.A. pays tribute at Kobe Bryant memorial

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

A year ago, my team, Oregon, was playing at USC. Morning of the game, our coaches told us that there was a surprise for the day. I was thinking Nike sent us some new shoes or swag or something. The game starts and shortly after, Kobe walks in with his daughter, Gianna, and two of her teammates. They sat courtside where my jaw sat dropped. They watched the entire game. And that was the first time I met Kobe.

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Read UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s speech from the Kobe Bryant memorial

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 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.

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Rob Pelinka says ‘Kobe’s last human act was heroic’

Rob Pelinka takes his turn to talk about Kobe and Gianna Bryant at the "Celebration of Life" at Staples Center.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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 and now Lakers general manager and vice president of basketball operations, 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?”

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Read WNBA star Diana Taurasi’s words about Kobe Bryant

Diana Taurasi speaks at Kobe and Gianna Bryant's memorial service at Staples Center on Monday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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.

On a few lucky occasions, my dad would come home from work; he was a metal sheet worker in Los Angeles. He’d come home with Laker tickets. Watching Kobe play the Great Western Forum as a rookie made this little girl believe she could be a Laker one day. It was like getting to know myself every single day. He made it OK to play with an edge that borderlined crazy.

Early onset Mamba mentality was in full effect. Years later when I spent time with Kobe at the 2008 Olympics, I learned firsthand that it just wasn’t limited to the basketball court. His competitive fire ran through his veins, just like many of us today.

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Read Vanessa Bryant’s words about Kobe Bryant at memorial

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.

He was truly the romantic one in our relationship. I look forward to Valentine’s Day, and our anniversaries every year. He plans special anniversary trips, and a special traditional gift for every year of our marriage. He even had made my most treasured gifts, he just thought outside the box it was so thoughtful, even while working hard to be the best athlete. He gives me the actual notebook and the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in the notebook moving. When I asked him why he chose the blue dress. He said it was because the same when Allie comes back to Noah. We had hoped to grow all together like the movie.

We really had an amazing love story. We loved each other with our whole beings. Two perfectly imperfect people making a beautiful family, and raising our sweet and amazing girls.

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‘White Mamba’ Diana Taurasi talks Kobe, Gianna and love of basketball

Diana Taurasi talks about Kobe and Gianna Bryant during the "Celebration of Life" at Staples Center.
Diana Taurasi talks about Kobe and Gianna Bryant during the memorial at Staples Center.
(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

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

WNBA superstar Diana Taurasi 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 [on] crazy,” Taurasi said.

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

Photos: L.A. pays tribute at Kobe Bryant memorial

“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.

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Video: Kobe Bryant calls Diana Taurasi the ‘White Mamba’

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Kobe Bryant talks about WNBA superstar Diana Taurasi and giving her the nickname “White Mamba”: “She has every bit of the temperament.”

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Read Vanessa Bryant’s emotional speech about her daughter Gianna

NBA legend Michael Jordan helps Vanessa Bryant off the stage during Kobe and Gianna Bryant tribute at Staples Center.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“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.

She was daddy’s girl, but I know she loves her mama. And she would always tell me and show me how much she loved me. She was one of my very best friends. She loved cake. She loved putting a smile on everyone’s face. Last August, she made a beautiful birthday cake for her daddy. It had fondant and look like it had blue agate crystals Kobe’s birthday cake looks like it was professionally decorated.

She made the best chocolate chip cookies. She loved watching cooking shows and Cupcake Wars with me, and she loved watching survivor and NBA games on TV with her daddy. She also loved watching Disney movies with her sisters.

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Kobe Bryant’s special connection with Latinos inspired fan to design quinceañera dress

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

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Read Jimmy Kimmel’s opening speech at Kobe and Gianna’s Bryant memorial

Jimmy Kimmel speaks at Kobe and Gianna Bryant's memorial at Staples Center on Monday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“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 mambaonthree.org, 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.

Everywhere you go, you see his face, his number. Gigi’s face, Gigi’s number. Everywhere at every intersection. There are hundreds of murals painted by artists who are inspired, not because he is a basketball player but because Kobe was an artist too. And not just in L.A., across the country and Kobe’s hometown, Philadelphia, in Italy, in India, the Philippines, China, New York, Phoenix, Boston, for God’s sake.

In places where you would be booed on the court, Kobe is missed. Even a great Boston Celtic, Bill Russell, wore No. 24, and a Lakers jersey to yesterday’s game. I knew he would come to us eventually.

Today we’re joined by Kobe’s teammates and opponents alike, his friends, his family and his fans, as we try to make sense of what happened to these nine beautiful people who were by all accounts so full of life, who left behind parents, friends, co-workers, classmates, siblings and children.

I’ve been trying to come up with something positive to take away from this and it was hard because there isn’t much. But the best thing I think I was able to come up with is this: Gratitude. It seems to me that all we can do is be grateful for the time we have with them. And from the time we have left with each other. And that’s all.

In the Catholic Church, you know, which the Bryant family is part of, at Mass we share the sign of peace. This is a moment to hug or shake hands with people around you. It occurred to me that that is something that only seems to happen at church, and at sporting events.

When perfect strangers who love the same team are suddenly hugging and high-fiving and celebrating together and so, since we are here today to celebrate, I’d like to invite you right now to take a moment to say hello to the people around you. Whether you know them or not. To be grateful for life, and for the fact that we are all here together.”

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Vanessa Bryant calls daughter Gigi ‘our shepherd’

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.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

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.”

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Here’s how Kobe memorial speaker Jimmy Kimmel remembered Bryant on his show

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel spoke at the memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Here is Kimmel’s tribute to Bryant from his TV show last month.

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Beyoncé kicks off Kobe Bryant memorial with one of his favorite songs

A screenshot of Beyoncé performing during the 'Celebration of Like' at Staples.
A screenshot of Beyoncé performing during the ‘Celebration of Like’ at Staples.
(Spectrum Sportsnet Live)

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.”

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Fan travels across country to showcase customized casket with replica of Staples Center’s court

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, complete with a mini video board.

Collins said he prayed about 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 casket maker for three years.

It took about three days to build the piece, and then it took about a week to drive 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.”

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Beyoncé and Kobe Bryant went way back

A screenshot of Beyoncé performing during the 'Celebration of Like' at Staples.
A screenshot of Beyoncé performing during the ‘Celebration of Like’ at Staples.
(Spectrum Sportsnet Live)

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.”

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Vanessa Bryant and her daughters enter to standing ovation

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 onetime agent and close friend, accompanied the Bryant family to their seats.

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Many of the greatest names in NBA history are attending Kobe Bryant memorial

The list of basketball dignitaries who 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: Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Steve Nash, Paul Pierce, Gregg Popovich, Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker, Doc Rivers, Steph Curry, James Harden, Byron Scott, Demar Derozan, Scottie Pippen, Draymond Green, Lamar Odom, Vlade Divac, Caron Butler, Russell Westbrook, Devin Booker, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.

Beyonce performed the first song of the memorial service. Among the other celebrities attending are Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West and Khloe Kardashian, Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Kimmel.

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

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Sabrina Ionescu remembers her mentor, Kobe Bryant, in an open letter

Kobe Bryant and Sabrina Ionescu.
(Instagram / sabrina_i)

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.

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Attendees at memorial to receive special program honoring Kobe and Gianna Bryant

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Long lines at Staples Center as attendees wait to enter memorial

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Admirer to release 26 doves in honor of Kobe and Gianna

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.... Kobe was the complete opposite of that.”

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

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Vanessa Bryant files wrongful death lawsuit against helicopter operator

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.”

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Inside Staples Center, red flowers and photos of Kobe Bryant’s family at center court

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

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

Ray and LaVonna King had taken 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’s and Gianna’s numbers on the back and entered the arena.

Attorneys for Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death suit against the company that operated the helicopter that crashed, killing Kobe and Gianna Bryant and seven others.

“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.”

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Fans pay tribute to late Kobe Bryant before memorial

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, pulling a trailer, from Wilmington, Calif., and parked 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 on the hood were Nos. 32 and 24, 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 six years but never had 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, along with his dog, he drove along the perimeter of Staples Center, capturing much of the crowd’s attention. He said he was there in Bryant’s memory and also 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.”

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Guests arriving for memorial greeted with gifts

Memorial attendees will take home a shirt, a program and a commemorative ticket.
(Dan Woike / Los Angeles Times)

Guests arriving for the memorial for Kobe and Gigi Bryant were greeted with gifts Monday morning upon arriving at the gate.

As well as a T-shirt featuring a photo of 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.

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Attendees at Kobe and Gigi Bryant memorial receive special T-shirt

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Fan remembers favorite interactions with Kobe Bryant

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

The 21-year-old attended the Bryants’ 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 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.”

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Thousands of fans wait in line outside Staples Center for Kobe Bryant memorial

Fans gather outside Staples Center before the Kobe Bryant memorial service on Monday.
(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, 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 their husband and father. “My husband would be so mad to lose Kobe,” she said.

Many in the crowd outside wore black along 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 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.

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Security is tight around Staples Center

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

Security is pretty tight at Staples Center. I am attending the event and have had my ticket checked five times before reaching the front of the venue.

Lines were at least 50 people deep at every entrance before the doors were opened.

There are fewer people wearing black than might be expected. If you have a Kobe Bryant jersey, you’re wearing it today. Fans are wearing purple, gold, white, black — if it has No. 8 or No. 24 on it and the name “Bryant” on the back, that’s what they’re wearing.

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Kobe Bryant memorial will honor Lakers legend’s career with more than 33,000 roses

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.

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How Los Angeles is remembering Kobe Bryant

A mural of Kobe Bryant on a wall along the bike path in Venice on Jan. 31.
A mural of Kobe Bryant glows in the late afternoon sun on a wall along the bike path in Venice on Jan. 31.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

It has been nearly a month since a helicopter crashed into a Calabasas hill on a foggy Sunday morning. On board were family members, friends, coaches, parents and their children, including Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

Disbelief spread nearly as quickly as news of the crash. People set to mourning collectively and individually. Paint dried, ink settled into skin, and a city speckled purple and gold.

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Magic Johnson on Kobe Bryant’s death: It will be hard for L.A. to move on

Magic Johnson hugs Kobe Bryant before the Lakers-Jazz game at Staples Center April 13, 2016.
Magic Johnson hugs Kobe Bryant before the Lakers game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 13, 2016.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

On the eve of when the Lakers and the NBA will pay tribute to Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson eloquently spoke about how the iconic player’s death has affected Los Angeles and basketball fans around the world.

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died last month in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.

“It’s going to be hard for the city to move on,” Johnson said. "… it’s hard in a two-minute, five-minute time to say everything that he meant to the world, to the NBA, to basketball fans, because he’s just bigger than life. It’ll take a long year to get over his passing and [his] daughter and the seven other people who lost their lives as well.”

There will be “A Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gigi Bryant” on Monday morning at Staples Center.

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How to watch the Kobe Bryant memorial

Today’s memorial service for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash last month, will be steeped in symbolism.

The jersey numbers of the basketball legend and his budding prodigy — 24 and 2, respectively — are intrinsically rooted in the details. Everything from the date of the event — Feb. 24 (02/24/20) — to the ticket prices — $24.02, two for $224 or $224 each — relates to those special numbers.

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Fans urged to avoid Staples Center unless they have a ticket

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.

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