Michael Jordan and Beyonce Pay Tribute At The Kobe Bryant Memorial Service
From the classy to the ill-inspired, the tributes to fallen NBA giant Kobe Bryant continue to pour in. Taken from the world at a time when his post-basketball career, along with the potential of his daughter Gianna, was visibly blooming, Kobe's loss will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest tragedies in modern sporting history. Yet the Mamba Mentality and the story of his charitable foundation, both of which will inspire fans of the basketball legend for generations to come, will undoubtedly live on.
Perhaps putting a sense of closure on the story for now, however, family, friends, celebrities and Kobe's fellow players arrived at the Staples Centre overnight to pay tribute at his official memorial service. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry and LeBron James all attended on behalf of players past and present, while celebrities such as Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez also attended.
You can check out the entire three hour ceremony directly below, but we've also picked some of the most emotional moments for a crash course on everything that went down.
A stirring performance by Beyoncé made for one of the night's most touching moments, and served to shine a light on the friendships he had with many in the entertainment industry. She addressed the crowd, reflecting on the friendship they'd held since he played a brief cameo in a Destiny's Child music video in 1999. “I’m here because I love Kobe, and this was one of his favourite songs,” she said, launching into “XO.”
A particularly touching moment also came courtesy of NBA legend Michael Jordan – someone not known for being publicly outspoken in his retirement. Visibly emotional and shaken by the loss of his longtime rival and friend, he reflected on the loss of someone who was perhaps more than any other compared to him during his heyday.
“When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died,” he said. "Maybe it surprised people... but we were very close friends,” said Jordan. “Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe.”
"At first, it was an aggravation," Jordan said of the times when Kobe would come to him for advice. "But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know... As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be."
Witty as ever, he also quipped that he'd be dealing with new 'Crying Jordan' memes for some years to come.
Longtime teammate of Kobe, Shaquille O'Neal, who went viral for his emotional reaction to Kobe's passing shortly after the news was announced, also briefly took the stage. "Kobe and I pushed one another to play some of the greatest basketball of all time and I am proud that no other team has accomplished what the three-peat Lakers have done since the Kobe and Shaq Lakers," he continued, launching into a story of Kobe at his most competitive.
The night's most emotional moment, of course, came when Vanessa Bryant, wife to Kobe and mother to the late Gigi, took the stand. In a rousing 10 minute speech during which she mostly spoke of her daughter, she agonisingly spoke of the potential Gianna had as a basketball prodigy, and of Kobe's gift of nurturing his daughters. "A perfect husband," she called him. "The MVP of girl dads."
"Her smile was like sunshine,” she said, as those in the crowd visibly struggled to deal with the emotion of the moment. “Her smile took up her entire face. Like me. Kobe always said she was like me. She had my fire, my personality and sarcasm. She was tender and loving on the inside. She had the best laugh. It was infectious. It was pure and genuine."
"God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other," Vanessa continued... "He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi."
To close proceedings Christina Aguilera serenaded the crowd with a performance of Ave Maria, before emcee Jimmy Kimmel closed with a bittersweet piece of advice: "Work hard, and hug the people you love."