The world continues to mourn the loss of basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who both died in a helicopter crash with seven others on January 26. Many sent condolences and well-wishes to his wife, Vanessa Bryant, and to the Bryant family at the Lakers' tribute. The memorial service included two video tributes, performances by R&B artists Usher and Boyz II Men and cellist Ben Hong, and a moving speech from fellow NBA star and current Laker LeBron James, according to ESPN. Gianna’s fellow Mamba Academy teammates also attended and sat in the front row.
Vanessa reacted to the tribute game by uploading a photo of Kobe’s iconic #24 jersey next to Gianna’s #2 Mamba jersey draped over what was their regular court-side seats at the Staples Center. She captioned the photo, “There is no #24 without #2.”
Vanessa released a heartfelt message to the public two days ago, thanking everyone who reached out as well as expressing condolences to the other families who lost loved ones in the helicopter crash.
“My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them,” she wrote. “We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved.”
Lee Zeidman, the president of Staples Center, L.A. Live, and Microsoft Theater, told The Los Angeles Times that the letters, T-shirts, and stuffed animals would be sent to the Bryant family in special containers, and the flowers and perishables would be composted and scattered around the current plantlife around the city. Zeidman also requested that after this week as they clear the remaining items, fans still wishing to leave items instead donate to the Mamba Sports Foundation.
James gave a powerful speech at the tribute before the game started, stating that the evening should be a celebration of Kobe’s life.
“This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body, the getting up, the sitting down, the everything. The countless hours, the determination to be as great as he could be. Tonight, we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we've seen over the past three years, man,” said James.