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How Staples Center will transform from Kobe Bryant memorial to NBA game in just hours

Staples Center is the home arena for the Lakers, Clippers and Kings.
Staples Center is the home arena for the Lakers, Clippers and Kings as well as countless events such as concerts.
(Noah Graham / NHLI)

Since Staples Center’s doors first opened in 1999, the building has been reconfigured to host multiple events in the same day more than 220 times, conversions that often involve switching from a hockey venue in the early afternoon to an NBA arena mere hours later, and vice versa.

Monday’s schedule of events, however, presents “a doubleheader unlike any other doubleheader that we’ve done,” said Lee Zeidman, the president of Staples Center, Microsoft Theatre and L.A. Live.

At 10 a.m., the arena will hold a celebration of life for Kobe Bryant, the iconic Lakers star, and his daughter Gianna, who were among nine killed in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash in Calabasas. That evening, at 7:30 p.m., the Clippers host the Memphis Grizzlies.

During the memorial, a 24-by-24-foot stage — 24 was one of the numbers Bryant wore during his 20 seasons with the Lakers — will sit in the middle of the arena floor with seating surrounding it on all sides. Staples Center executives say they are “hopeful” the event will finish by 1 p.m. and that everyone will leave promptly. The memorial will not be broadcast on outdoor monitors at nearby L.A. Live and those without tickets will not be permitted inside a closed perimeter encircling the arena.

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In general, the arena has a policy against showing events on monitors outside because it can be difficult for ticket-holders to exit the parking structures afterward if the streets are filled with fans. In this case, there is the complication of the evening NBA game, adding another reason for public announcements asking people without tickets to stay away.

Spokesman Michael Roth said the arena is expecting a smooth transition.

“It’s what we do, converting the building from one event to another,” he said. “We’ll get it done.”

Upon the memorial’s finish, workers will break down floor seats, move sections of seating into place for a Clippers home game and install the court and baskets.

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“Our goal is to have the building ready to go no later than 3:30,” Zeidman said.

NBA rules stipulate teams must be able to access the court at least 90 minutes before tipoff, a league spokesman said, but Zeidman believes the Clippers’ and Grizzlies’ pregame workouts should not be affected should the building be ready for basketball as intended.

If Staples Center is used to quick conversions, Monday’s changeover presents a challenge that is as much emotional and logistical, Zeidman said. Many people who work at the arena interacted with and knew Bryant over the years, including Zeidman, who was working at the Forum in Inglewood in 1996 when the Lakers rookie arrived.

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“He did anything I ever asked him to do, including when I asked him to unveil the Taylor Swift banner” inside Staples Center, Zeidman said. “He said, ‘The only thing I ask is a meet-and-greet [with Swift] for my daughters.’ I said, ‘Kobe, not a problem.’

“The last four years plus you were seeing an author, a poet, a filmmaker, a father, a husband, a champion of the WNBA, a champion of young girls playing that game, someone who was putting everything back into the Mamba Academy. It’s sad to think we’re going to miss that.”


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