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Michael Jordan and fellow stars pay touching tribute to Kobe Bryant

World2020-02-25

Michael Jordan has struggled saying goodbye."When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died, and as I look in this arena, across the globe, a piece of you died," so declared the 57-year-old legend with tears rolling down his face.Arguably the greatest NBA player of all time, Jordan could hardly contain his emotions as the current Charlotte Hornets owner, along with a gallery of stars, friends and fans remembered Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others at a memorial service in Los Angeles on Monday.The public memorial -- dubbed "A Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" -- was held at Staples Center, the arena where Bryant wowed fans for 17 years, and known as "the house that Kobe built."The 2/24 date carries special significance as it coincides with Bryant's jersey number -- "24" -- and Gianna's "2" jersey number.Michael Jordan wipes away his tears during "The Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" at Staples Center, Los Angeles, February 24, 2020. /VCGA brother we grow to love"Maybe it surprised people … but we were very close friends," Jordan told a rapt audience. "Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe.""This kid had passion like you would never know. ... He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be, and as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.""I promise you, from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother that I tried to help in every way I could. Please rest in peace, little brother," he added.Another basketball legend, Shaquille O'Neal, also spoke at the ceremony, drawing cheers as he recalled the three NBA titles that he and Bryant won together."Kobe and I have 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 the Lakers have done since Shaq-and-the-Kobe Lakers did it," O'Neal said.Shaquille O'Neal was among the Basketball Hall of Famers who attended the memorial at Staples Center, Los Angeles, February 24, 2020. /VCGHe also spoke of their well-known feuding, saying that even though "we fought, bantered or insulted each other with off-handed remarks," there was mutual respect between the pair."Make no mistake," O'Neal said, "folks thought we were on bad terms, (but) when the cameras were turned off, he and I would throw a wink at each other.""It's hard in a two-minute, five-minute time to say everything he meant to the world, to the NBA and to basketball fans. He's bigger than life," added Magic Johnson.Beyonce, backed by a choir, opened the ceremony with one of Bryant's favorite songs "XO," from her 2013 album, followed by "Halo.""I'm here because I love Kobe," said the 70-time Grammy-nominated singer, who was dressed in a golden suit -- the color of the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant's team for two decades.Kobe Bryant's widow Vanessa pays a tearful tribute to her late 41-year-old husband and middle daughter at Staples Center, Los Angeles, February 24, 2020. /VCGA poignant Vanessa eulogy Kobe's wife, Vanessa, spoke publicly for the first time since her husband and daughter's death. She fought back tears when speaking about the loss of her young daughter."I won't be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. I'll never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy, have babies of her own," she said.Bryant, 41, and the others were killed on January 26 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, while en route to a youth basketball tournament at which Kobe was planning to coach his daughter and her teammates.Vanessa has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the operator of the helicopter. The pilot was one of those killed in the accident."He was my everything," she said of Bryant, who joined the NBA at age 18 straight out of high school, was a five-time champion and fourth-highest scorer in league history with 33,643 points."God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to heaven together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi, and I got Noni, BB, and Coco. We are still the best team. We love and miss you, booboo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace, and have fun in heaven until we meet again."Vanessa is seen on a screen during a public memorial for NBA great Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others at Staples Center, Los Angeles, February 24, 2020. /VCGA visibly shaken Jimmy Kimmel, who officiated the ceremony, said he saw Kobe and Gianna's faces and jersey numbers everywhere in Los Angeles and beyond."All we can do is to be grateful for the time we had with them," said the late night talk show host and comedian.Among other celebrities attending the memorial were filmmaker Spike Lee -- who was close friends with Bryant and directed a documentary on his life -- and rapper Snoop Dogg, an avid Lakers fan.A legend transcendsthesportAfter his 20-year playing career, the Lakers retired both jersey numbers Bryant wore for the team - 8 and 24 - which hang from the arena’s rafters along with the numbers of other Lakers' greats, including Johnson and O'Neal.During the annual NBA All-Star weekend three weeks after the crash, the league said it would name its All-Star Game Most Valuable Player honor for Bryant.A young fan writes a message on a mural for Kobe Bryant during the official memorial ceremony at Staples Center, Los Angeles, February 24, 2020. /VCGSince his death, tributes to Bryant have appeared across the Los Angeles area, with his numbers displayed on the Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel, city buses bearing “RIP Kobe” signs and purple and gold lights added to the pylons at LAX airport."In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank," said Jordan, articulating one of the reasons Bryant's stardom transcended sports. "He left it all on the floor."Now, it's time to move on.(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)

Michael Jordan has struggled saying goodbye.

"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died, and as I look in this arena, across the globe, a piece of you died," so declared the 57-year-old legend with tears rolling down his face.

Arguably the greatest NBA player of all time, Jordan could hardly contain his emotions as the current Charlotte Hornets owner, along with a gallery of stars, friends and fans remembered Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others at a memorial service in Los Angeles on Monday.

The public memorial -- dubbed "A Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" -- was held at Staples Center, the arena where Bryant wowed fans for 17 years, and known as "the house that Kobe built."

The 2/24 date carries special significance as it coincides with Bryant's jersey number -- "24" -- and Gianna's "2" jersey number.

Michael Jordan wipes away his tears during "The Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" at Staples Center, Los Angeles, February 24, 2020. /VCG

A brother we grow to love

"Maybe it surprised people … but we were very close friends," Jordan told a rapt audience. "Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe."

"This kid had passion like you would never know. ... He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be, and as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be."

"I promise you, from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother that I tried to help in every way I could. Please rest in peace, little brother," he added.

Another basketball legend, Shaquille O'Neal, also spoke at the ceremony, drawing cheers as he recalled the three NBA titles that he and Bryant won together.

"Kobe and I have 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 the Lakers have done since Shaq-and-the-Kobe Lakers did it," O'Neal said.

Shaquille O'Neal was among the Basketball Hall of Famers who attended the memorial at Staples Center, Los Angeles, February 24, 2020. /VCG

He also spoke of their well-known feuding, saying that even though "we fought, bantered or insulted each other with off-handed remarks," there was mutual respect between the pair.

"Make no mistake," O'Neal said, "folks thought we were on bad terms, (but) when the cameras were turned off, he and I would throw a wink at each other."

"It's hard in a two-minute, five-minute time to say everything he meant to the world, to the NBA and to basketball fans. He's bigger than life," added Magic Johnson.

Beyonce, backed by a choir, opened the ceremony with one of Bryant's favorite songs "XO," from her 2013 album, followed by "Halo."

"I'm here because I love Kobe," said the 70-time Grammy-nominated singer, who was dressed in a golden suit -- the color of the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant's team for two decades.

Kobe Bryant's widow Vanessa pays a tearful tribute to her late 41-year-old husband and middle daughter at Staples Center, Los Angeles, February 24, 2020. /VCG

A poignant Vanessa eulogy

Kobe's wife, Vanessa, spoke publicly for the first time since her husband and daughter's death. She fought back tears when speaking about the loss of her young daughter.

"I won't be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day. I'll never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy, have babies of her own," she said.

Bryant, 41, and the others were killed on January 26 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, while en route to a youth basketball tournament at which Kobe was planning to coach his daughter and her teammates.

Vanessa has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the operator of the helicopter. The pilot was one of those killed in the accident.

"He was my everything," she said of Bryant, who joined the NBA at age 18 straight out of high school, was a five-time champion and fourth-highest scorer in league history with 33,643 points.

"God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to heaven together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi, and I got Noni, BB, and Coco. We are still the best team. We love and miss you, booboo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace, and have fun in heaven until we meet again."

Vanessa is seen on a screen during a public memorial for NBA great Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others at Staples Center, Los Angeles, February 24, 2020. /VCG

A visibly shaken Jimmy Kimmel, who officiated the ceremony, said he saw Kobe and Gianna's faces and jersey numbers everywhere in Los Angeles and beyond.

"All we can do is to be grateful for the time we had with them," said the late night talk show host and comedian.

Among other celebrities attending the memorial were filmmaker Spike Lee -- who was close friends with Bryant and directed a documentary on his life -- and rapper Snoop Dogg, an avid Lakers fan.

A legend transcendsthesport

After his 20-year playing career, the Lakers retired both jersey numbers Bryant wore for the team - 8 and 24 - which hang from the arena’s rafters along with the numbers of other Lakers' greats, including Johnson and O'Neal.

During the annual NBA All-Star weekend three weeks after the crash, the league said it would name its All-Star Game Most Valuable Player honor for Bryant.

A young fan writes a message on a mural for Kobe Bryant during the official memorial ceremony at Staples Center, Los Angeles, February 24, 2020. /VCG

Since his death, tributes to Bryant have appeared across the Los Angeles area, with his numbers displayed on the Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel, city buses bearing “RIP Kobe” signs and purple and gold lights added to the pylons at LAX airport.

"In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent, Kobe left nothing in the tank," said Jordan, articulating one of the reasons Bryant's stardom transcended sports. "He left it all on the floor."

Now, it's time to move on.

(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)

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