Kobe Bryant memorial service: Live updates from Staples Centre as NBA legend, daughter Gianna remembered
Los Angeles Lakers fans are filing into Staples Centre to remember Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash last month.
The arena where Bryant played features a stage surrounded by thousands of red roses below the scoreboard that’s showing images of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter.
Kobe and Gianna Bryant died along with seven others in a helicopter crash on January 26.
You can watch the service live on ESPN (509) in Australia from 5-7am AEDT.
Fans arriving for Monday’s public memorial service are being given a program that only contains photos, a purple KB pin and a T-shirt with photos of the father and daughter.
The concourse is a sea of purple, gold and black clothing.
Dozens of fans took photos with a mural inside Staples Center of Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal after a championship win.
The memorial will feature speakers reflecting on Kobe Bryant’s impact on his sport and the world, along with music and retrospectives on Bryant’s on-court achievements. Bryant became active in film, television and writing after he retired from basketball in 2016.
Bryant’s family, dozens of sports greats and many major figures in Bryant’s public life are expected to attend.
Staples Centre is sold out for the memorial. The money made from ticket sales will be given to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which supports youth sports programs in underserved communities and teaches sports to girls and women.
Bryant played his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, including the final 17 seasons at Staples Center, which opened in 1999. The five-time NBA champion’s two retired jersey numbers – 8 and 24 – hang high above the arena where he became the third-leading scorer in league history until Lakers star LeBron James passed him on the night before Bryant’s death.
Bryant’s death caused an outpouring of grief across Los Angeles, where he remained the city’s most popular athlete into retirement. Dozens of public memorials and murals have been installed around the sprawling metropolis, and thousands of fans gathered daily outside Staples Center to commiserate after the crash.
Symbolic meanings will run throughout the ceremony, which will be held on a 24-foot-by-24-foot stage. Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother, chose Feb. 24 as the date in honour of the uniform numbers of Kobe and Gianna, who wore No. 2 on her youth basketball teams.
A private funeral was held for Kobe and Gianna Bryant in Orange County on Feb. 7.
REMEMBERING THE LIVES LOST
The six passengers travelling with Bryant and his daughter in the helicopter that crashed into a Southern California mountainside last month were joined by their love of basketball.
Among them, two teammates of Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, a coach with a rising profile in girls’ basketball and three parents of basketball-crazed children.
Their pilot, who was taking them to a basketball tournament, was a veteran flyer whose friends and customers said was exactly the guy a passenger would want at the controls.
KOBE AND GIANNA BRYANT: Kobe Bryant liked to tell the story of how fans would approach to ask the father of four daughters when he was going to have a son who could carry on his basketball legacy. His precocious 13-year-old would respond, saying, “Oy, I got this.” Gianna Bryant, known as Gigi to family and friends, was infused with the same burning desire for basketball greatness that had driven her father to 18 All- Star Game appearances and five NBA championships during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The pair could sometimes be seen courtside at Lakers games, where Bryant, his arm around her, would explain the intricacies of a sport he’d dedicated himself to since age 6, determined to become one of its greatest players. Four years into retirement, Bryant, 41, had moved into a second career as a storyteller and advocate for women’s sports. He’d won an Academy Award in 2018 for the animated short film “Dear Basketball” and was taking his daughter, a budding basketball star herself, to a girls tournament sponsored by the Mamba Sports Academy he’d co-founded two years before.
JOHN, KERI AND ALYSSA ALTOBELLI: John Altobelli was a renowned figure in college baseball. Altobelli, 56, had led his Orange Coast College baseball team to more than 700 victories and four state championships during a 27-year career that earned him national coach of the year honours in 2019 from the American Baseball Coaches Association.
Basketball was his 14-year-old daughter Alyssa’s sport, however, and she was a teammate of Gianna Bryant who hoped to some day play college ball. She also loved animals, according to friends, so much so that she took home turtles from her school’s science class if she feared they were being mistreated. Friends remembered her 46-year-old mother, Keri, as a dedicated mom and wife who made it a point to attend all of her children’s games, joking that she’d sat in a particular spot in the bleachers so many times she should have a plaque there with her name engraved on it.
Bryant, friends with Altobelli, had offered him and his family a ride on the helicopter that day so he could beat traffic to the tournament. The Altobellis are survived by two other children.
SARAH AND PAYTON CHESTER: Sarah Chester, a former college volleyball player, was travelling to the game with her 13-year-old daughter, Payton, who was also a teammate of Gianna Bryant. Payton played on both the Mamba girls team and for St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, where she was an eighth-grader and her 45-year-old mother was a member of the board of trustees. Payton, her father said, had hoped to play in the WNBA someday. “She found joy on any court and loved all of her teammates and coaches,” he said shortly after her death. Of his wife he said, “Sarah was full of life and the glue of our family.”
CHRISTINA MAUSER: Christina Mauser, an assistant coach of the Mamba girls team travelling that day to the Mamba Cup tournament in Thousand Oaks, was establishing herself as a superior basketball coach. Kobe Bryant had personally recruited her for his Mamba Sports Academy after seeing her coach girls basketball at the private school in Southern California that his daughter attended. Mauser, 38, had been a star athlete herself, in volleyball and basketball, at Huntington Beach’s Edison High School, where she was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. A wife and mother of three, Mauser drew praise from players, several of whom called her a second mom.
ARA ZOBAYAN: When you went up in a helicopter, people said, Ara Zobayan was the guy you’d want at the controls. He not only greeted everyone with a big grin but was one of the most experienced helicopter pilots around, with top ratings and more than 8,200 hours of flight time amassed over two decades. “That’s a guy who you ask for to fly you from city to city,” said Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard. He often flew with Zobayan, whom he said would tell him from time to time that Bryant had asked him to remember to say hello. Zobayan was chief pilot for Island Express Helicopters and had flown Bryant to another Mamba Cup game the day before. “He was one of their best pilots,” Leonard said. The 50-year-old native of Lebanon had fallen in love with helicopters as a teenager after a chopper mechanic who happened to be sitting next to him on an airline flight loaned him a helicopter magazine. It was a love affair sealed a few years later after he took a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. Soon after he was saving up for flight lessons.
Originally published as Emotions high at Kobe’s memorial service