Jimmy Kimmel Gives Tearful Speech at Kobe Bryant Memorial: 'Be Grateful for Life'
Jimmy Kimmel lead the initial tribute to late Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant on Monday during the celebration of life for the athlete at Staples Center.
The 52-year-old served as a master of ceremonies, of sort, for the emotional event, joking as he first took the stage, “You picked the wrong person to guide you through.”
“Thank you for gathering to celebrate,” said Kimmel, listing the names of the seven killed alongside Kobe, 41, and his daughter, Gianna, 13, on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash — John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan. He noted that the event was “a celebration of their lives, and of life itself in the building where those of us who are Lakers fans and Kobe fans [gathered].”
Choking up, Kimmel said of life in Los Angeles after the tragic accident, “Everywhere you go you see his face, his number, Gigi’s face, Gigi’s number. Everywhere, at every intersection.”
“There are hundreds of murals painted by artists — not because he’s a basketball player, but because Kobe was an artist too,” recounted Kimmel. “And not just in L.A., but across the country.”
Kimmel noted that Kobe and Gianna “were, by all accounts, so full of life.”
“I’ve been trying to come up with something positive to take away from this and it was hard because there isn’t much,” he later said, “but the best thing I think I was able to come up with is this: Gratitude.”
“It seems to be all we can do is be grateful for the time that we had with them, and for the time that we have left with each other. And that’s all.”
The television host then encouraged the crowd at the Los Angeles arena to “say hello to the people around you, to be grateful for life and for the fact that we are all here together.”
After the crash, Kimmel dedicated his show Jimmy Kimmel Live to the NBA legend.
“We don’t have a studio audience here tonight because — going forward with a comedy show didn’t feel right considering what happened yesterday — so I’d like to just speak to you directly,” Kimmel said in his opening monologue.
“Kobe was — and I know this might not make sense — but he was just the last person you could have ever imagined something like this happening to,” Kimmel said at the time. “He was so strong — and handsome — and smart — and energetic — he was a hero.”
“And when I say that, I don’t mean a hero like real heroes — like firefighters, or doctors and nurses — who actually save lives,” he continued. “I don’t mean to compare what he did for a living to what they do. I know there are more important things than basketball. Almost everything is more important.”
“But Kobe was a hero in the way Superman is a hero,” the comedian explained. “He was so big and full of life, it was almost like he was a fictional character. A real-life superhero — with a costume and everything — walking amongst us.”