By Sanjna Shukla
On February 24, 2020, over 20,000 people at the Staples Center and several more around the world honored the life of basketball legend, Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. The date was a special tribute to the No.2 of Gianna’s basketball jersey and to the No.24 that Kobe Bryant made an icon in not only Staples Center, but the entire basketball community.
The memorial included tributes from several artists, basketball players, and public figures. Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, and Christina Aguilera performed heartfelt numbers, while Bryant’s good friend Jimmy Kimmel hosted the event.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Bryant was at the top of the list of candidates for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2020. During an interview, he stated that he wanted to be inducted by either his former coach, Phil Jackson, or by his basketball idol, Michael Jordan. Kobe’s mentor and friend, Michael Jordan, gave a speech at the tribute and praised Bryant’s work ethic and passion for the sport. The crowd was reduced to laughter when Jordan references his “Crying Jordan” meme during his speech and proclaimed, “I got to look at 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 to four years.”
Kobe’s former teammate and friend Shaquille O’Neal also shared poignant stories about the duo’s time together on the Lakers. The pair very famously had their ups and downs as teammates, but today O’Neal is a close family friend and uncle-like figure to the Bryant children.
One of the most endearing yet difficult speeches of the night was the eulogy given by Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant. This was her first time speaking publicly since the crash, and she did so with grace and poise. Of the many personal anecdotes Vanessa shared about her husband, a crowd favorite was when she shared that Kobe Bryant had gifted her the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in the famous rain scene in The Notebook. Vanessa Bryant incredibly kept her composure while discussing stories about her 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. The eight grader was a promising basketball player and was often seen learning the ropes from her famous father, Kobe. Gianna and seven others were on the helicopter heading to Gianna’s youth basketball game where Kobe was supposed to be coaching when the accident happened.
The event displayed the impact that Bryant had on the Lakers in Los Angeles and in the global basketball community. He was admired for his commitment to the game and known for his unrelenting determination, inspiring the popular phrase – “Mamba Mentality.”