Michael Jordan
Entertainment Latest News

At Kobe Bryant memorial service Vanessa Bryant opens up, Michael Jordan wipes away tears

Spread the love

A powerful public memorial service was held at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles Monday to honor NBA great Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, nearly one month after the helicopter crash that took their lives.

Former teammate Shaquille O’Neal told the 20,000 mourners that “Kobe and I always held a deep respect and love for one another,” calling him “Heaven’s MVP.”

Shaquille O’Neal speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Shaquille O’Neal speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Also among the speakers was Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, who emotionally opened up about her memories of her husband and daughter.

Christina Aguilera sang a stirring rendition of “Ave Maria” and the Staples Center fell silent as Alicia Keys performed Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”

Here is a recap of the service:

Michael Jordan wipes away tears

Fellow NBA great and close friend Michael Jordan wiped tears away as he spoke.

“When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died,” he said.

Michael Jordan speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Michael Jordan speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Tears streamed down Jordan’s face as he said he wanted to be the “best big brother I could be” for Bryant.

On a lighter note, Jordan joked that his appearance will generate “another crying meme.”

“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.”

Michael Jordan speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Michael Jordan speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Jordan said “as a basketball player, as a businessman, and a storyteller, and as father, in the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank. He left it all on the floor.”

“Kobe gave every last ounce of himself to whatever he was doing,” Jordan said. “After basketball he showed a creative side … that I didn’t think any of us knew he had.”

“In retirement he seemed so happy, he found new passions and he continued to give back as a coach, in his community,” Jordan said. “More importantly, he was an amazing dad, amazing husband, who dedicated himself to his family and who loved his daughters with all his heart.

“Kobe never left anything on the court,” he said. “And I think that’s what he would want for us to do. No one knows how much time we have, that’s why we must live in the moment.”

‘Enjoy the road’

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, Bryant’s close friend and former agent, and godfather to Gianna, said Bryant celebrated turning 40 with a vacation at a beautiful resort, where he still wanted to “watch Team Mamba game film with Gigi.”

Mourners are seated before paying their respect at Kobe Bryant’s and his daughter, Gigi’s memorial service at Staple Center in Los Angeles, Feb. 24, 2020.Mourners are seated before paying their respect at Kobe Bryant’s and his daughter, Gigi’s memorial service at Staple Center in Los Angeles, Feb. 24, 2020.Etienne Laurent/EPA via Shutterstock

Pelinka described Bryant as the “baby whisperer” who had the “golden touch” and loved to cuddle with his daughters.

When Bryant was on the road, he was always on the phone with his daughters, never wanting to miss a moment of their lives, he said.

Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

“The day after Kobe was gone, I was at home and feeling totally lost,” Pelinka said. “I couldn’t imagine life without the strength and guidance of my best friend.”

Pelinka said he felt the need to connect with something “tangible” that represented their friendship, and his wife reminded him of a book from Bryant.

In the inside cover, Pelinka said Bryant wrote: “to RP, my brother, may you always remember to enjoy the road, especially when it’s a hard one.”

‘The future’

Sabrina Ionescu, a basketball player at the University of Oregon who became a mentor for Gianna, called the 13-year-old “the future” of women’s basketball.

“She always wanted to learn, to go to every game she could — college, NBA, WNBA,” she said. “Kobe was helping with that because he saw it in her. Just like he saw it in me.”

In this file photo taken on July 26, 2018, retired NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna watch during the U.S. national championships swimming meet in Irvine, California.In this file photo taken on July 26, 2018, retired NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna watch during the U.S. national championships swimming meet in Irvine, California.Chris Carlson/AP

Ionescu recalled how Kobe Bryant would text her and check up on her, giving both her and Gianna the “blueprint” for future success.

“Through Gigi, through me, through his investment in women’s basketball — that was his next great act,” she said.

Ionescu said she still texts Kobe Bryant’s phone.

“The texts go through, but no response,” she said. “Sometimes I find myself still waiting.”

Detailed view of signage at the LA Live plaza before a memorial at Staples Center for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Feb 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Detailed view of signage at the LA Live plaza before a memorial at Staples Center for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Feb 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Dylan Stewart/Image of Sport via Reuters

‘Fearless mentality’

WNBA player Diana Taurasi said, “Gigi in many ways represents the future of women’s basketball: a future where a young woman aspires to play in the WNBA the same way I wanted to be A Laker.”

“Gigi already had goals to play for UConn — that in itself showed her fearless mentality,” Taurasi said.

“We promise to carry Gigi’s legacy,” she vowed.

Vanessa Bryant on her ‘soulmate’

Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, who was with the NBA player since she was 17, opened up about her “soulmate” as she spoke at the service.

She recalled how he was the romantic in the relationship and planned special anniversary trips and gifts. She called his handmade presents “my most treasured gifts.”

Vanessa Bryant speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Vanessa Bryant speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Vanessa Bryant called her husband the best “girl dad,” who taught their four daughters “how to be brave and keep pushing forward when things get tough.”

She described him as a “doting” and “hands-on” father and who helped bathe their kids, sing them “silly songs” and had bedtime “down to a science.”

Vanessa Bryant speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Vanessa Bryant speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

“I want my daughters to know and remember the amazing person, husband and father he was,” she said. “The kind of man that wanted to teach the future generations to be better and keep them from making his own mistakes.”

“I couldn’t see him as a celebrity, nor just an incredible basketball player,” she said. “He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children. He was my—he was my everything.”

Fans line up outside to Staples Center waiting to enter to attend the memorial to celebrate the life of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant, Los Angeles, Feb. 24, 2020.Fans line up outside to Staples Center waiting to enter to attend the memorial to celebrate the life of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant, Los Angeles, Feb. 24, 2020.Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Vanessa Bryant remembers Gianna

Vanessa Bryant was overcome with emotion as she said Gianna “always kissed me goodnight and kissed me good morning.”

“She was daddy’s girl but I know she loved her mama,” she said. “She was one of my very best friends.”

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks, Nov. 17, 2019, in Los Angeles.Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks, Nov. 17, 2019, in Los Angeles.Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

She loved to bake, swim and dance, her mother said. Vanessa Bryant described how her daughter had “the best laugh” and loved family traditions.

She was competitive like her father, but “had a sweet grace,” she said. “Her smile was like sunshine.”

She said her daughter — a rule follower — would have made a big difference for women’s basketball and was motivated to change the way women were viewed in sports.

Vanessa Bryant grew more emotional as she talked about how she won’t be able to tell Gianna how “gorgeous she looks on her wedding day,” or see her walk down the aisle, or “have a father-daughter dance with her daddy, dance on the dance floor with me or have babies of her own.”

‘Be grateful for the time we had’

Jimmy Kimmel cried as he recounted how Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s faces are now plastered on walls across the world.

Fans carry posters of Kobe Bryant near the Staples Center before a public memorial for former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in Los Angeles, Feb. 24, 2020.Fans carry posters of Kobe Bryant near the Staples Center before a public memorial for former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in Los Angeles, Feb. 24, 2020.Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP
Fans arrive outside prior to The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Fans arrive outside prior to The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Kimmel called the service 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.”

“It seems to me that all we can do is be grateful for the time we had with them and for the time we have left with each other,” Kimmel said.

Beyonce performs

Beyonce opened the service performing her hit “XO” — which she said was one of Bryant’s favorite songs — followed by “Halo.”

2/24/2020

There is significance in the chosen date. It reflects the basketball jersey numbers worn by Kobe (No. 24) and Gianna (No. 2). Vanessa Bryant also noted that her husband was a Laker for 20 years and the two were together for 20 years.

Kobe Bryant and Gianna were among the nine people killed in the Jan. 26 helicopter crash in Southern California while en route to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *