Kobe And Gigi's Celebration Of Life

To say it was a powerful scene is an understatement.

Jim Rome
February 25, 2020 - 9:41 am
Vanessa Bryant

USA Today

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Yesterday, Staples Center hosted "A Celebration of Life -- Kobe & Gianna Bryant." To say it was a powerful scene is an understatement. 33,643 red roses, one for every point scored by Kobe, surrounded a 24 foot by 24 foot stage. Beyonce performed, Jimmy Kimmel hosted, and Vanessa Bryant was the first person to speak.

I still have no idea how she was able to speak about her daughter and husband the way that she did, just 30 days after their tragic deaths. She started by talking about Gianna. 

"Kobe always said [Gigi] was 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."

Another detail that Vanessa offered: 

"She always kissed me good night and kissed me good morning. There were a few occasions where I was absolutely tired from being up with Bianka and Capri and thought she had left for school without saying goodbye. I'd text and say, 'No kiss?' and Gianna would reply, 'Mama, you were asleep and I didn't want to wake you.' She knew how much her kiss meant to me and kissed me every day."

Again, how she was able to talk about her daughter like that is absolutely beyond me. I was crushed just watching it later. 

Then Vanessa shifted to Kobe.

“Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. He was the early bird and I was the night owl. I was fire and he was ice, and vice versa at times. We balanced each other out. He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe. He was charismatic, a gentleman. He was loving, adoring and romantic. He was truly the romantic one in our relationship."

She went on to share that Kobe was always checking at the start of Laker games to see if Vanessa was in her seat, and that he gave her the actual notebook from the movie The Notebook, and that was just one of a myriad of romantic gestures he made.

And she closed with this.“Babe, take care of our Gigi. And I got Nani, Bibi and Coco. We’re still the best team."

So powerful, so moving, so impressive. And I still cannot believe she was able to do that. Such dignity. And grace. And courage. 

When Vanessa finished, Michael Jordan offered his hand as she came down the stairs. It was a simple gesture, but incredibly powerful.

Vanessa was followed by Diana Taurasi, Sabrina Ionescu, and Geno Auriemma, who all spoke about Gianna.   

Each one was incredibly moving, including Geno who talked about talking with Kobe about being a coach. And then seeing Gigi play. 

Shaq was also there and he had the similar thoughts about Kobe’s willingness to share the ball.

That is pretty much the quintessential Kobe line. And perfectly delivered by Shaq. On a day where the emotions were extremely heavy, it was good to have a laugh like that. 

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, who had been Kobe’s agent, talked about his last exchange with Kobe and what that revealed about him, and how Bryant was texting about getting a friend's daughter an internship.

Maybe the most moving part of the event, though, and every part of it was moving, was when Michael Jordan talked about Kobe as a little brother

Jordan does not drop his guard like that very often. He doesn’t let you in, so the fact that he was there, being that open and honest, that raw, that real, felt like a special tribute to Kobe.

And MJ also had this incredible line, as he was speaking through tears.

That was perfect. The Jordan crying meme was officially retired yesterday and it happened in the most powerful, painful, and poetic way possible. 

I could continue to play clips from the Celebration of Life for the rest of the hour. It was really well done and hit all the right notes. There were tears, there was laughter. It doesn’t make anything any easier and it certainly doesn’t bring back Kobe and Gigi, but it was something. It was a chance to grieve together, to mourn and to laugh. I hope that it helped Vanessa and the Bryant family just a little. Because I know it helped Los Angeles, Southern California, and Laker fans everywhere.