Sun | Jan 17, 2021

Grief and celebration at Staples Center - Fans mourn Kobe Bryant on music’s biggest night

Published:Monday | January 27, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, 24 who died in a helicopter crash yesterday.
Fans of Kobe Bryant mourn at a memorial to him in front of Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, after word of the Lakers star’s death in a helicopter crash, in downtown Los Angeles yestreday.

It was a study of contrasts at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, yesterday as grief and celebration struggled to occupy the same space. Only hours before the 62nd Grammy Awards were set to get under way, news broke of the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

The 41-year-old former Los Angeles Laker and his daughter were among nine people who perished after the helicopter in which they were travelling went down approximately 10 a.m., according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva at a news conference yesterday.

“As most of you may know, we lost Kobe Bryant in a tragic helicopter accident today. Since we are in his house, I would ask you to join me in a moment of silence,” interim Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr said to those gathered at the pre-telecast ceremony.

As expectant Grammy nominees walked the red carpet, distraught fans transformed outside the Staples Center into a makeshift memorial in honour of the former basketball star who, until last Saturday, was the third-highest scorer in NBA history.

Some sported Kobe jerseys while others carried flowers and looks of respect for ‘The Black Mamba’ as fans navigated barriers to hold court along the sidewalk and courtyard of the home of the NBA’s second-winningest team with 16 titles.

This is the second time in recent memory where the Grammys have been affected by a major death around the time of the ceremonies. Eight years ago, the awards were transformed into a memorial service after the death of music superstar Whitney Houston the night before.

A sombre Ryan Seacrest opened E!’s Grammy’s red carpet with a tribute to Bryant.

“His loss will be felt even more deeply tonight at a place he considered home,” Seacrest said on camera.

“Kobe, We love you brother,” Kanye West tweeted, adding, “We’re praying for your family and appreciate the life you’ve lived and all the inspiration you gave.”

John Legend noted that one superstar died while the Grammys was getting prepared to honour another.

“I’m so sad and stunned right now. In Staples Arena, where Kobe created so many memories for all of us, preparing to pay tribute to another brilliant man we lost too soon, Nipsey Hussle. Life can be so brutal and senseless sometimes. Hold on to your loved ones. We miss you, Kobe,” Legend wrote.

Former President Barack Obama sent his condolences to Bryant’s family. “Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents,” tweeted Obama. “Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”

Michael Jordan has also reacted to the news about the death. “I loved Kobe – he was like a little brother to me,” Jordan said.

Jordan, with six titles to his name, was the most notable of former and current NBA stars to express how shocked they were at the news. Jordan commended Bryant for his fierce, competitive streak and called him “one of the greats of the game”.

But Bryant’s celebrity extended past basketball. In 2018, his acclaimed short film, Dear Basketball: The Legend of Kobe Bryant, won film-making’s golden prize for Best Animated Short Film. He was nominated as producer-screenwriter along with animator Glen Keane, who is known for his work on Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

He tweeted at the time: “What?? This is beyond the realm of imagination. It means so much that the @TheAcademy deemed #DearBasketball worthy of contention,” Bryant tweeted at the time. “Thanks to the genius of @GlenKeanePrd & John Williams for taking my poem to this level. It’s an honor to be on this team. #OscarNoms.”

The Staples Center has been home to the Los Angeles Lakers since 1999, three years into Bryant’s career with the NBA outfit.

Bryant spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, where he won five championships. He played his last game in Staples Center in 2016.