On Monday, a group of basketball icons joined thousands of Kobe Bryant fans in Los Angeles to pay respect to the Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others who died last month in a helicopter crash.
Kobe’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, shared an emotional address at the public tribute called “Celebration of Life” held at the Staples Center. It’s been Bryant’s home arena during most of his remarkable 20-season career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Vanessa and Kobe started their relationship when the former was still at 17.
She told the audience that included luminaries from the National Basketball Association and show-business celebrities about the pain of losing her 13-year-old daughter Gianna. For her, Gigi was “an extremely sweet and gentle soul,” and she called the husband her “soulmate.”
“He was my everything,” she said of Bryant, who came straight out of high school to join the NBA at the age of 18. Kobe was a five-time champion and the fourth-highest scorer in league history with 33,643 points.
“God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other,” Vanessa Bryant said, referring to Kobe and Gigi. “He had to bring them home to heaven together.”
Among the Basketball Hall of Famers who attended the ceremony were Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and former Bryant teammate Shaquille O’Neal. Moreover, Beyonce and a montage of Bryant’s on-court highlights opened the public tribute for the departed ones.
“When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died,” said Jordan with tears streaming down his face. “Please rest in peace, little brother.”
On January 26, Bryant, 41, and the others, including his daughter Gianna, were killed in a crash in Calabasas, California while they were on the way to a youth basketball tournament where Kobe planned to coach his daughter and her teammates.
Vanessa Bryant filed a lawsuit against the helicopter-owning company on Monday.
After his 20-year playing career, the Lakers retired both Bryant’s jersey numbers for the team — 8 and 24 — along with the numbers of other greats, including Johnson and O’Neal, hanging from the rafters of the arena.
Tributes to Bryant have appeared across the Los Angeles area since his death, with his numbers shown on the Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel, city buses, and on the LAX airport.
“In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank,” said Michael Jordan, stating one of the reasons Bryant’s stardom transcended sports. “He left it all on the floor.”
Watch the FULL moving and inspirational speech of Vanessa Bryant HERE: