Farewell, Kobe: The Basketball Legend's Family, Friends Say A Final Goodbye At His Memorial
Tears were shed and hearts were exposed, but according to those who bared their souls at the podium, that was just the Kobe Bryant effect shining through—he made you overflow with good memories, love, and then some
Beyoncé, Jimmy Kimmel, Michael Jordan, Shaq, Alicia Keys, and Vanessa Bryant—all of them had their time onstage to give their final farewell to the Black Mamba who left this world too soon, and who many hope will find rest and peace in the next life.
It still feels a little unreal to everyone who loved the LA Lakers icon; Kobe Bryant, at 41 years old, died in a tragic helicopter accident in January alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and several of his friends and Gigi's basketball teammates.
In an Instagram post, Vanessa, Kobe's widow and the mother of their daughters, sums up our collective feelings about the event: "My brain refuses to accept that both Kobe and Gigi are gone. I can’t process both at the same time. It’s like I’m trying to process Kobe being gone but my body refuses to accept my Gigi will never come back to me. It feels wrong."
But just this week, Vanessa and others whose lives were deeply touched by the athlete and devoted family man sang to a different tune and chose to focus on all the good that he's left behind, rather than the enduring sadness his too-soon passing has conjured.
February 24, 2020 marked the day of Kobe's memorial service that was open to the public. (He and Gigi were buried on February 7 in a private funeral at a small cemetery in South California, close to a church that frequented).
It was held at the Staples Center—the home of the basketball team he had spent the entirety of his sports career with—and saw many of his contemporaries, fans, and industry friends attend, a handful of them prepared with touching tributes.
Here are some of those tributes:
Beyoncé treated the audience with performances of "XO" and "Halo," along with a choir dressed in white. Clad in a yellow gold pantsuit, she declared that she was there because she loved Kobe, then invited the crowd to sing along as "XO" was one of Kobe's favorite songs.
Michael Jordan, retired Chicago Bulls superstar, unashamedly wept during his nine-minute eulogy. All throughout, he praised Kobe for his passion, positivity, and how he was the best little brother he could ever have asked for.
Shaquille O'Neal, whose Lakers on-court tandem with Kobe was on-point but sometimes rivalrous (albeit in a constructive way), called his lifelong buddy "heaven's MVP." If you wondered what Kobe was like as a teammate and a friend when the cameras turned away, these three minutes are what you need.
And there was Alicia Keys, who performed another musical favorite of Kobe's and Gigi's: Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." (Notice, too, how she wore a purple suit to complement Beyoncé's to complete the Lakers' signature colors).
Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel spared the jokes and we're sure that even if he tried to crack one or two, he wouldn't be able to. He was choked up on tears and shared some of the most tender words that day, and at the end of his speech, invited everyone in the arena to share share signs of peace, a gesture showing their appreciation for life, and for being together to celebrate Kobe.
And of course, there was Vanessa Bryant.
There to witness many of these beautiful moments unfold were Kanye West and Kim Kardashian with her mom and sister Kris Jenner and Khloe Kardashian, Paula Abdul, Queen Latifah, Gabrielle Union, and Jennifer Lopez, as well as NBA greats Magic Johnson, Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan, Dwayne Wade, Paul Pierce, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson, among so many others.
It was also announced that ticket sales from will all be donated to the Mamba Foundation, an organization that supports youth-targeted sports programs.
Meanwhile, personalities in the Philippines also shared their own memories of the sports legend in an exclusive interview with Metro.Style:
ABS-CBN host and anchor Boyet Sison: "I asked him how life is at the moment for him and he said it was the best, at that moment. He was loving fatherhood, he was loving how he was playing the game."
ABS-CBN sports reporter Dyan Castillejo: "Kobe was always such a great interview because he had so many things to share. Just his presence alone was very inspiring."
Sports columnist Bill Velasco: "He's very, very focused. If you're talking to Kobe Bryant, you're the only person in the world... He would always try to find answers to the questions he couldn't answer."
Athlete and ABS-CBN host Gretchen Ho: "When I heard that he starts training at midnight, ahead of everybody, that kind of inspired me to do the same."
ABS-CBN sports anchor Migs Bustos: "I've been talking to a lot of basketball personalities... And I always ask them, 'What is it that made you a die hard fan, or why is it that Filipinos love Kobe the most?' It's because of the willingness to win."
Photos from @kobebryant @vanessabryant
Banner photo by Connor Jalbert on Unsplash