Music Stars Remember Kobe Bryant at the Grammys Hours After He & Daughter Died in Helicopter Crash
"His loss will be felt even more deeply tonight at a place he considered home" E! host Ryan Seacrest said on the red carpet
At the beginning of E!’s red carpet show on Sunday, hosts Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic honored the retired NBA legend, 41. While standing in the Staples Center, where Bryant used to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, Seacrest said: “We are starting the show on a very somber note. We want to take a moment to say we are deeply saddened by the passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the others aboard the helicopter which tragically crashed today in Calabasas, California.”
“Kobe … was one of the greatest basketball players and greatest athletes to ever live. His loss will be felt even more deeply tonight at a place he considered home — this, the Staples Center,” Seacrest continued. “We’re sending our heartfelt condolences to his beloved wife, and the family he left behind. His absence will be felt by so many people that he touched.”
Rancic also expressed her condolences: “As a mother, as a wife, as a human, my heart goes out to Vanessa and their family tonight, first and foremost.”
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Seacrest then said he and Rancic received the “unthinkable” news this morning. “This is a man in a family that we’ve gotten to know over the years. We’ve seen him play here before. He was on the phone with me a few months ago talking about the love of being a father, talking about his daughters so pridefully, and I think that so many artists here tonight will be thinking about this, and wanting to share their stories.”
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DJ Khaled walked the red carpet in a black tuxedo while holding a t-shirt from 1996, the year that Bryant decided to skip playing basketball in high school and enter the NBA draft, that showed a photo of him holding his first-ever Los Angeles Lakers Jersey. The “Just Us” singer revealed to E! that the tribute he and John Legend had planned for the late rapper Nipsey Hussle during the awards show would also be paying “homage” to Bryant and his daughter.
“God is greatness, a blessing, but you know, we’re doing a tribute for Nipsey Hussle,” he said on the red carpet. “We also want to pay homage and show love to Kobe Bryant, and his daughter, Gianna. The news is devastating. It’s hard to even celebrate, but what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna lift the spirits and pay homage and show love because, like Nipsey would say, the marathon continues.”
While speaking with PEOPLE on the red carpet ahead of the Grammys, Wycleff Jean said he was still trying to “process” the news.
“You feel like a hammer hit your heart. This is someone personally I’ve known and spoken to on the phone. You meet this guy and he’s the most incredible, nicest teddy bear. An example to all of us — an idea of how you’re supposed to be with your family and how you’re supposed to be with your kids,” he said. “There’s really no words for it.”
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Diplo also told E! he “didn’t believe” the news at first.
“He was so young,” the singer said. “My age, 41. And he had so much more to do. To be here at Staples right now, and to look up. We see his jersey up there. Just feel the energy because we do the Grammys right here but you know, 82 games a year they’re playing in the stadium. Kobe brought this energy to Los Angeles for 20 years.”
Smokey Robinson gave Seacrest a hug on the red carpet before discussing his feelings about Bryant’s death, adding that it was a “very solemn day,” but he hoped people will still celebrate music through the evening.
“I hate that it had to happen on a day when we are celebrating music and all of that,” Robinson said. “It’s horrible. I know it’s going to be somber, but I just want us to celebrate. that’s what we had planned before any of this happened and this kind of put a damper on it.”
Rapper Rick Ross remembered Bryant, whom he said he crossed paths with several times before: ““A couple times we came across each other, it was real short and brief,” the “Gold Roses” artist told PEOPLETV. “I got the opportunity to let him know I was a fan of his career – he did the same.”
“I just feel like as a true champion, the champion Kobe was, I believe he would want us to celebrate his legacy, starting with the night, and whoever get on that stage, whoever bring one of those home, they gotta hold it up for the black mamba,” Ross continued.
Rapper YBN Cordae opened up to PEOPLE about learning of the NBA superstar’s passing, calling his death “a complete tragedy.”
“It’s just a complete tragedy, man. That’s all you can use to describe it,” he said. “Rest in peace to his daughter. It’s a complete tragedy.”
Actress Priyanka Chopra shared a photo of her manicured nails on her Instagram story, which displayed the number 24 written in what appears to be Sharpie on her index finger. “#RIPMamba” she captioned the photo on her Instagram story.
Rapper Common told E! that he is turning to God to help him get through the news and think positively.
“In these situations I’m doing my best to just give it to the creator and try to spread the joy, think about the positive things and send as much love to his family,” he said. “We all feel it in our own way, but his family and his loved ones feel it in another way. I am just giving it to God and hopefully, today we can celebrate through music and different things. But there’s nothing that can take away from what life is. I just want to say ‘God bless his soul and his daughter, and everyone who was on that helicopter.”
At the end of their performance, DJ Khaled said “RIP Nipsey Hussle, RIP Kobe Bryant, RIP Gianna, Long Live Nip.”
H.E.R. also paid her respects to the late athlete and how he “inspires” her.
“Honestly, Kobe inspires me and gives me motivation because of his drive and how hard he works,” the “Could’ve Been” singer said. “Everybody knows Kobe for how hard he works. I want to channel that same energy. I look up to that. He is a legend.”
Before opening the show with her performance of “Cuz I Love You” and a rendition of “Truth Hurts,” Lizzo began by dedicating the night to the memory of Kobe and Gianna.
“Tonight is for Kobe,” she said.
Alicia Keys, who is hosting the show, then followed suit, dedicating the entire show to Bryant and opening with a performance of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” alongside Boys II Men.
“Here we are together on music’s biggest night celebrating the artists that do it best,” Keys said. “But to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now because earlier today, Los Angeles, America, and the whole wide world lost a hero. We’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
After her performance, while sitting at a piano, Keys said she was going to continue with the show because “Kobe would want us to keep the vibrations high.”
Aerosmith also paid tribute to Bryant’s legacy during their performance alongside Run-DMC. While they rocked out, they held up Bryant’s #24 jersey from his time as a shooting guard on the Lakers.
Lil Nas X also followed suit during his performance of “Old Town Road.” The “Panini” singer began his performance lying on a couch while Bryant’s jersey was laid in a chair next to him. Lil Nas X was joined by other singers during the rendition, including Mason Ramsey, Billy Ray Cyrus, BTS, and Nas. When the song concluded, Nas yelled out “We love you Kobe!” in tribute to Bryant.
Tyler the Creator told PEOPLE during the show that he had mixed emotions throughout the night after winning the Grammy for best rap album.
“That news was heavy, especially being in LA and just being here at the Staples Center within a short period of time between him and NIpsey,” he said. “If you’re from Los Angeles, depending on the sector you’re in that shit is really, really heavy. We took an L tonight. RIP to Kobe — that hurt — but also we took a win just being from Los Angeles and taking it home. It’s mixed emotions.”
TMZ first reported that Bryant and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday morning. They had reportedly been headed to a youth basketball game.
On Sunday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby and other authorities held a news conference to address the crash, announcing that nine victims, including the pilot and eight others, died in the crash.
“All survivors were determined to have been perished,” Osby said.
Bryant and GIanna are survived by Vanessa, Bryant’s 37-year-old wife, and their daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
Throughout the day, stars mourned the loss of the five-time NBA champion and his daughter on social media.
Ahead of the awards show, singer John Legend tweeted: “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, [slain rapper] Nipsey Hussle. Life can be so brutal and senseless sometimes. Hold on to your loved ones. We miss you, Kobe.”
“This can’t be real ???? there’s no way!!! My heart hurts,” Khloé Kardashian shared on Twitter.
“Nooooooooooo God please No!,” fellow retired basketball player Dwyane Wade shared after hearing the news.
Rapper A$AP Rocky tweeted, “RIP KOBE , SO SAD , SUCH A SAD DAY N SAD NEWS , WE LOVE U,” while NFL star JJ Watt shared, “Can’t be true. Just can’t be. Truly truly horrific. Rest In Peace Kobe.”
PeopleTV’s PEOPLE Now host Jeremy Parsons, PEOPLE Senior Editor Janine Rubenstein and Entertainment Weekly Senior News Editor Gerrad Hall are co-hosting a live red carpet pre-show ahead of the awards ceremony. Catch the full livestream above at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT or on PEOPLE’s Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also watch on the PeopleTV app, available on all of your favorite streaming devices.
Tune into the 62nd annual Grammy Awards at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS.