LOS ANGELES — Thousands of mourners gathered at Staples Center on Monday for a public memorial honoring Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were killed in a helicopter crash alongside seven others last month.
The sold-out “celebration of life” event was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. PT at the home of the Los Angeles Lakers, a fitting venue given that the downtown L.A. arena has come to be known as “the house that Kobe built.”
The memorial is filled with symbolism, with the date — 2/24/20 — and the ticket prices — ranging from $24.02 to $224 — chosen to represent the No. 24 and No. 2 jerseys worn respectively by the basketball great and his 13-year-old daughter. Even the number 20 in the year is special, representing how many years Bryant was with the Lakers as well as how long he and his wife, Vanessa Bryant, were together.
Those without tickets to the memorial were told not to go to the area — they’ll be turned away, officials say — and instead encouraged to watch at home or elsewhere.
The celebration of life service comes after weeks of mourning for the nine victims of the Jan. 26 crash in Calabasas during a trip to a youth basketball game. Also killed were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and daughter Alyssa; Bryant’s friend and assistant coach, Christina Mauser; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton; and Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the Sikorsky S-76B.
In the week after the crash, hundreds of thousands of fans descended upon Staples Center, leaving everything from handwritten messages and flowers to basketballs and shoes to pay their respects. Some of the items were delivered to the Bryant family at Vanessa’s request.
Bryant, 41, played his entire NBA career with the Lakers, the vast majority at Staples Center, which opened in 1999. He helped lead the team to five championships and was widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time by the end of his career.
He retired in 2016, capping off a remarkable career by scoring 60 points in his final game as a Laker.