Tearful Michael Jordan Pays Homage To ‘Brother’ Kobe Bryant At Memorial Service Attended By Crores

A memorial was held at the Staples Center to honour Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, Gianna and the seven others who lost their lives in a helicopter crash on January 26. 

Asking those present in the arena to join her and sing with her so loud that Gianna and Kobe could hear them from above, Beyonce opened her performance with the late basketball star’s favourite song.

Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, paid tribute to her “perfect husband” who she said was “the MVP of girl dads.” Speaking about her 13-year-old daughter, she said she believed Gianna had the potential to match Kobe as an international basketball star. “Her smile was like sunshine,” she said. “Her smile took up her entire face. Like me. Kobe always said she was like 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.”

Vanessa Bryant was given a standing ovation by thousands in the crowd and a host of NBA legends including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry and LeBron James. Celebrities such as Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez were also in attendance.

Vanessa Bryant also spoke of the close relationship between Kobe and Gianna. “God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other,” she said. “He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi.”

Kobe Bryant’s amazing work ethic is well known about, his drive to be the best derives his massive fan base. A tearful Michael Jordan, considered by many to be the greatest basketball player of all time, recalled an in-the-making Kobe Bryant calling him late at night, bothering him about post-up moves, footwork or other intricacies of the game they would go on to master. “When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died,” he said.

Both Bryant and Jordan shared a competitive fire, the former was often compared to the latter. “Maybe it surprised people … but we were very close friends,” said Michael Jordan. “Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe.”

Michael Jordan went to add that Bryant had come to him for advice during his career. “At first, it was an aggravation,” Jordan said. “But then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know … As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.”

Kobe Bryant’s former teammate and fellow Hall of Fame member, Shaquille O’Neal, said “Kobe and I 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 Lakers have done since the Kobe and Shaq Lakers,” he continued. “You were taken away from us way too soon.”

The memorial service was rounded out by a performance from Christina Aguilera, who sang Ave Maria.

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