Jimmy Kimmel had tears streaming down his face as he delivered an emotional speech to open a special memorial ceremony dedicated to Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant.
The late night host honored the pair and the seven others who died tragically last month in a helicopter crash, telling the crowd gathered in a service at the Staples Center on Monday: “This is a sad day. But it is also a celebration of life ― of their lives and of life itself in the building where those of us who are Lakers fans and Kobe fans celebrated so many of the best times of our lives.”
“I’m honored to have been asked to speak here,” Kimmel said, adding that ticket proceeds from the memorial ceremony go directly to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation. He also encouraged people to donate to the Mamba on Three Fund, which was created to support the families of the seven other crash victims: Alyssa, John and Kerri Altobelli; Payton and Sarah Chester; Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan.
Through tears, Kimmel said he “can only imagine how painful this for them. And I don’t think any of us could have imagined this.”
“Everywhere you go, you see his face, his number, Gigi’s face, Gigi’s number, everywhere,” Kimmel said. “At every intersection, there are hundreds of murals painted by artists who were inspired not because he’s a basketball player, but because Kobe was an artist too.”
“And not just in LA — across the country and Kobe’s hometown Philadelphia, in Italy, in India, the Philippines, China, New York, Phoenix, Boston, for God’s sake,” he said, bringing the crowd to a brief laugh. “In places where he would be booed on the court, Kobe is missed. Even the great Boston Celtic Bill Russell wore No. 24 and the Lakers jersey to yesterday’s game.”
The last comment was met with more laughter and cheers before the 52-year-old drew the crowd’s attention to the idea of “gratitude.”
“I have been trying to come up with something positive to take to take away from this and it was hard because there isn’t much, but the best thing I think I was able to come up with is this: gratitude. It seems to me that all we could do is be grateful for the time we had with them and for the time we have left with each other. And that’s all,” he said, before explaining the practice of sharing the sign of peace in the the Catholic Church, which allows people to “hug or shake hands with people around you.”
In the same vein, Kimmel implored the audience to “take a moment to say hello to the people around you, whether you know them or not.”
“To be grateful for life and for the fact that we are all here together,” he said.
Kimmel then introduced Vanessa Bryant, the NBA legend’s wife and Gianna’s mother. You can watch the entire moment ― and the rest of the ceremony ― above.