LOS ANGELES - Fans were brought to tears Monday morning by the emotional tributes made in remembrance of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, whose lives were celebrated at a public memorial held at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Those who were lucky enough to get tickets to the event began showing up at the venue around 8 a.m. Monday. All attendees were supposed to be seated by 9:45 a.m., however, fans were still entering Staples Center after 10 a.m. and the ceremony itself didn't begin until just before 10:30 a.m.
Beyoncé opened the ceremony with her song, "XO," with dozens of backup musicians as a powerful tribute honoring Kobe and Gianna.
"I'm here because I love Kobe and this was one of his favorite songs," Beyoncé said.
She followed the number with her hit song, "Halo."
A video tribute to the song "Memories" by Maroon 5 was then broadcasted on all the monitors inside Staples Center. The video montage contained highlights from Bryant's career as well as clips of him and Gianna, who went by the nickname Gigi.
Comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted the event, spoke next, reading the names of each of the nine victims.
“This is a sad day, but it is also a celebration of life — of their lives, and of life itself,” Kimmel said, holding back tears.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: TV personality Jimmy Kimmel 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)
Kimmel encouraged fans to donate to the MambaOnThree Fund, which was created to help support the other families affected by the tragic crash.
“I’ve been trying to come up with something positive to take from this,” Kimmel went on to say, explaining that gratitude was the only positive thing he could find. "It seems that all we can do is be grateful for the time we have, and the time we have left with each other.”
Vanessa Bryant painted a picture of what her husband and daughter were like outside of the public's view. When she took the stage, she was welcomed with a round of applause and standing ovation. Vanessa opened by thanking the community for their kind words since her husband and daughter's untimely death.
“The outpouring of love and support my family has felt from around the world has been so uplifting,” she said.
“My baby girl,” Vanessa said, overtaken by tears. Another round of applause gave Vanessa the strength to continue.
Kobe Bryant's wife Vanessa Bryant 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
“Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul," Vanessa recalled. "She always kissed me goodnight and kissed me good morning... She knew how much her morning and evening kisses meant to me.”
“She was daddy’s girl, but I know how much she loved her mama,” she said.
“Kobe and Gianna naturally gravitated towards each other. She was very much like her daddy in that they both liked helping people learn new things and master them,” she added.
“Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA," Vanessa said.
Kobe Bryant's wife Vanessa Bryant arrives to speak 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 ki
Next, Vanessa spoke about her late husband.
“He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words," she said. "He was loving, adoring and romantic."
"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," she said.
Vanessa described him as the "kind of man who wanted to teach the future generations to be better and keep them from making his own mistakes."
"God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together," she said. "Babe, you take care of our Gigi."
"Until we meet again one day,” Vanessa said in her closing remarks.
Diana Taurasi, known as the "White Mamba," took the mic next. She said that watching Bryant gave her the courage to pursue basketball in the WNBA.
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)
"Watching Kobe play... made this little girl believe that she could be a Laker one day," Taurasi said.
"I wanted to be just like him," recalled basketball player Sabrina Ionescu. "To be the first to show up and the last to leave... To make other people around you the best versions of themselves."
Ionescu talked about Gigi's own desire to be great, outside of what her father saw in her. She said Gigi had the same drive as her father, and would have made it far in the WNBA should she have had the chance.
US college basketball player Sabrina Ionescu 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 k
“If I represented the present of the women’s game, Gigi represented the future, and Kobe knew it,” said Ionescu, the Oregon star who was mentored by Bryant.
Geno Auriemma, the head coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies women's basketball team, spoke about a visit Gigi had to check out the team and his school.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: Geno Auriemma 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)
Auriemma said that when Bryant took Gigi to tour the campus, he stood back so he wasn't the center of everyone's focus. He was allowing her to be Gigi, not "Kobe Bryant's daughter," Auriemma said.
Rob Pelinka, the general manager of the Lakers and Gigi's godfather, spoke next.
He recalled the last text messages he had with Bryant, only a handful of minutes before the crash.
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/Ge
"Kobe was texting me from the helicopter," he said.
Explaining that Bryant texted him asking for help in securing an internship with a baseball agent for teenager Alexis Altobelli, who lost her parents and younger sister in the crash moments later.
“Kobe lived to make other people’s lives better, all the way up to his final text,” Pelinka said.
When speaking about his goddaughter, Pelinka recalled, "she smiled with her glittering eyes and was literally everything in the world that is good."
“Gigi was love and grace, and like her dad, her life was about blessing others," he added.
"Unlike the sun, Kobe and Gigi's fuel will never burn out, because their light is eternal," said Pelinka.
Accompanied by a string quartet, Alicia Keys took the stage next, performing "Moonlight Sonata," by Beethoven, which Bryant learned to play by ear for his wife, Vanessa.
US musician Alicia Keys performs 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 helicopt
Following her performance, Michael Jordan spoke about Bryant and Gigi, as tears streamed down his face. He even jokingly acknowledged that he would be giving the world another "crying Jordan" meme.
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 ni
"In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank," said Jordan. "He left it all on the floor."
“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,” Jordan added.
"Kobe gave every last ounce of himself to whatever he was doing," said Jordan.
"No one knows how much time we have, that's why we must live in the moment, we must enjoy the moment," Jordan said. "We must reach and see and spend as much time as we can with our family and friends."
Jordan was followed by Lakers legend Shaquille O'Neal.
"Kobe and I always maintained a deep respect and a love for one another," said O’Neal.
“Kobe and I pushed each other to play some of the greatest basketball of all time,” O’Neal said. “I’m proud nobody has accomplished what the threepeat Lakers have done since the Shaq and Kobe Lakers did it.”
O’Neal also got the biggest laugh in the somber service with a profane joke about an exchange in which Shaq told Kobe there was no “I” in team, but Bryant responded by noting that there is an “M-E.”
Christina Aguilera took the stage next, with a powerful rendition of "Ave Maria."
US singer Christina Aguilera performs 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 hel
Following the performance, Bryant's animated short film "Dear Basketball," was broadcasted on all the monitors inside Staples Center. The film was based on a letter Kobe Bryant wrote to The Players' Tribune on November 29, 2015, announcing his retirement from basketball. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 90th Academy Awards, marking the first Oscar win for any professional athlete. The short was written and narrated by Bryant and directed and animated by Glen Keane.
Thousands of fans attended the event at the arena where Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 17 seasons of his two-decade NBA career.
The mourners included Lakers greats such as Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Pau Gasol. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver joined Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and dozens of current NBA players, including Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles natives James Harden, Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan. Celebrities such as Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez also attended.
People who attended the event received commemorative T-shirts, pins and a photo-filled program.
"We hope that everybody heeds the message and they stay either in their offices, surrounded by their friends or at home with their family or loved ones, because it's going to be a very emotional memorial for that day and we want people to be able to enjoy it," Staples Center President Lee Zeidman told reporters Friday afternoon.
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Western Conference warms up with daughter Gianna Bryant during the NBA All-Star Game 2016 at the Air Canada Centre on February 14, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario. NOTE TO USER: Us
The Los Angeles Police Department reminded viewers on Friday that the ceremony will not be broadcasted on any of the outdoor screens outside Staples Center or the adjacent L.A. Live plaza.
Tickets for the memorial were priced at $224 each, two for $224 and $24.02 each, depending on their location. The prices coincide with the No. 24 jersey Bryant wore and the No. 2 worn by Gigi.
Proceeds for the ticket sales benefit the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, which was renamed from the Mamba Sports Foundation on Feb. 13, to honor Gigi, "because there is no #24 without #2," Bryant's widow, Vanessa announced in a post on Instagram.
Bryant was killed the morning of Jan. 26, when the helicopter carrying him, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven others crashed into a mountainside in Calabasas, California, while flying to a girls basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy. Bryant coached Gigi's team, which was scheduled to play that afternoon. She and two teammates were among the nine people killed.
The other victims were identified as John Altobelli, along with his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, Sarah and Payton Chester, youth basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.
A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board stated that wreckage from the helicopter that crashed did not show any sign of engine failure. The NTSB update included factual details, however, findings about a cause for the crash isn’t expected for a year or more.
Following news of Bryant’s death, fans spontaneously swarmed Staples Center within hours of the crash, creating a massive memorial of flowers, balloons, jerseys, stuffed toys and basketballs. The items were removed two weeks after the crash and fans were urged to donate to a Bryant foundation rather than bring more gifts and flowers.
The deaths shook Los Angeles and the sporting world. Staples Center is where Bryant starred for the Los Angeles Lakers for most of his two-decade career and the date 2/24 corresponds with the No. 24 jersey he wore and the No. 2 worn by Gigi.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.