Basketball royalty assembled at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday morning to join in the celebration of life for NBA great Kobe Bryant who died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (Gigi) on Jan. 26 in a horrific helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, about 26 miles away from the Los Angeles area.

Bryant, his daughter, and seven other passengers including the pilot were headed to her basketball game in Thousand Oaks.

There were no dry eyes in the arena as guests listened to the heartfelt tributes from the center court stage adorned with red rose arrangements by Bryant’s wife of 19 years, Vanessa Bryant, Rob Pelinka, his best friend, former agent and now Lakers’ GM, former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, WNBA player Diana Taurasi and basketball’s greatest, Michael Jordan.

Late night television personality Jimmy Kimmel hosted the event. Songs were beautifully performed by Beyoncé, Alicia Keyes and Christina Aguilera. The Staples Center memorial was packed with guest and fans.

The VIP area contained Bryant’s parents, Joe and Pamela Bryant, his two sisters, Sharia and Shaya, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss, former Lakers players and coaches past and present––Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Phil Jackson, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Elgin Baylor and Byron Scott, the who’s who of Laker greats. They were joined by Bill Russell, Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union, Stephen and Aisha Curry, A-Rod and Jennifer Lopez, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Greg Popovich, Geno Auriemma and a host of other notables.

Vanessa Bryant sobbed as she eulogized her daughter and all-star husband who played for 20 years, his entire career with the Lakers winning 5 NBA championships.

“She made a difference and was kind to everyone she met,” said Vanessa Bryant, 37, about her daughter Gianna, her second oldest child, an eighth grade student and an avid basketball fan who planned to follow in her famous father’s footsteps.

“Her classmates shared many fond memories about Gianna with us. And those stories reminded me that Gianna loved and showed everyone that no act of kindness is ever too small to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Kobe and Gianna leave behind Vanessa, wife and mother, and Bryant’s three other daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka 3, and Capri, just 8 months old. A private funeral was held for them earlier this month.

“He was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of our children,” she said solemnly. “He was mine. He was my everything,” noting their many years together, since she was 17 and a half years old.

“I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidante, and his protector. He was the most amazing husband, more than I could ever express or put into words.”

The audience, quiet, attentive, teared more the longer she spoke.

“I was fire, he was ice, and vice versa at times. We balanced each other out. He would do anything for me. I have no idea how I deserved a man that loved and wanted me more than Kobe.”

Michael Jordan walked onto the stage to the podium after being introduced by Kimmel to a thunderous applause, quieting as he began to speak about his friend who many compared Bryant to; but to Jordan, he was a dear friend, a little brother.

“When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died, and as I look in this arena, and across the globe, a piece of you died too,” said Jordan, whose words not only induced his tears, it evoked tears from the crowd.

Describing Kobe as a pain in the behind at times, Jordan grew to wanting to be, “the best big brother he possibly could be to Kobe.” It was his passion that endeared Jordan to him.

“This kid had passion like you would never know.”

The solemn, portentousness of the moment was halted when Jordan acknowledged that his real tears would now create a new crying meme in addition to the ones that already exist.

“Now he’s got me,” he said. “I’m gonna have to look at another crying meme,” pausing to the laughter and applause. “I told my wife that I wasn’t going to do this because I didn’t want to see that for the next three or more years. That is what Kobe Bryant does to me.”

Bryant’s memorial on Monday was symbolic because it was on 2-24, February 24th. The 2 represents the number 2 worn by Gianna, and the 24 worn by her father. Tributes to Bryant were conducted by teams the first days after his death using his number 24 and 8, the number that he used when he first entered the league.

Teams have taken 24 and 8 second clock violations to start their games in his honor. Some players who wore his numbers have changed numbers in an effort to have his number retired by the league. The league has officially named the NBA All-Star game’s MVP trophy after Bryant. He’ll also immediately enter basketball’s Hall Of Fame.

Bryant, 41, possessed basketball skills that made him so famous and so renowned globally that just the mention of his first name, Kobe, identified him.

Bryant, 41, the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer and the NBA’s fourth all-time leading scorer, became one of the world’s greatest, most respected basketball players, going directly to the NBA at 17 in 1996 after graduating from high school in Lower Merion, located in a suburb of Philadelphia. Bryant was the 13th pick in Round 1. Originally, he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in an agreement with the Lakers to get him on LA’s roster.

A 2-time Finals MVP, Bryant scored 33,643 points, 25 per game, 7,047 rebounds and 6,306 assists during his career, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

Nicknamed the Black Mamba, Bryant was multilingual, speaking Italian and Spanish as well as he spoke English.

Bryant was featured in a Spike Lee documentary entitled “Kobe Doing Work” in 2009 which chronicled his 2007-’08 NBA season.

In 2018, Bryant became the first African American to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and the first former professional athlete to be nominated and win an Academy Award for his film, “Dear Basketball.” The film also won the Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject and a Sports Emmy Award. The film was produced by Bryant’s production company, Granity Studios.

Bryant retired from basketball at the end of the 2015-2016 season. He scored an amazing 60 points during the final game of his career against the Utah Jazz

He was involved with coaching his daughter who was a member of his Mamba Academy, a youth sports program designed to improve the experience of youth in sports.

On their way to a Sunday morning game by helicopter, Bryant, his daughter, two of her friends/teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, their parents Keri and John Altobelli and Sarah Chester, along with the pilot, Ara Zobayan crashed early Sunday morning, January 26th. No one survived.