"Kobe was a special person. It's hard to understand and it's hard to process," Roger Goodell said

By Robyn Merrett
January 29, 2020 10:54 PM
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The sports community is continuing to pay homage to Kobe Bryant after his tragic death in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

On Wednesday, at the pre-Super Bowl press conference, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell revealed that Bryant will be honored at Sunday’s championship game in Miami, FL.

“I don’t think just Los Angeles is mourning the loss of Kobe Bryant,” Goodell began before sharing his own memories of the late NBA legend, who died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in the crash in Calabasas, California.

“I did have the opportunity to meet him. He obviously brought a lot to our world and I think all of us not only feel for the tragic events to his family but as well as everyone else who was a passenger on that helicopter,” Goodell said of victims John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.

“It’s hard to understand and it’s hard to process,” Goodell continued.

Amid the tragedy, Goodell said he is “proud” of “the way our players, the way our league responded, including a moment of silence during the [Pro Bowl] game, put his picture up and the way the fans responded to that.”

“We did that again on Monday night. So, we as a league have been very responsive and I think respectful of somebody who contributed so much to sports.”

Goodell also shared that the NFL lost Chris Doleman, “who I personally was very fond of and meant a great deal to me and the league.”

Roger Goodell, Kobe Bryant
| Credit: Alexander Tamargo/FilmMagic; Kevin Winter/Getty Images

“I think both of those individuals will be seen on Sunday in some fashion in a respectful way,” Goodell said of the upcoming tribute.

Bryant’s former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal will also be honoring him during Super Bowl weekend.

Earlier on Wednesday, O’Neal, 47, announced he’s decided not to cancel his Shaq’s Funhouse Super Bowl Party this weekend and is using it as an opportunity to continue to celebrate Bryant.

“Been going back and forth the past couple of days on if I should even have my event in Miami this weekend. Part of me wanted to stay to myself as I reflect what my brother and his family mean to me and my family,” O’Neal wrote on Twitter.

He shared, however, that he made up his mind after thinking of what Bryant would want him to do.

“Kobe would want us to push through and celebrate life. So lets do just that,” O’Neal continued, before sharing that he will be donating the proceeds from his party to not only the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant foundation, but also to the families of the seven other victims.

“I’ll be dedicating and donating all my proceeds from Friday nights Fun House to all the families who lost loved ones and to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Foundation,” O’Neal wrote.

Bryant and his wife launched the foundation in 2006 as a public charity dedicated to improving the lives of youth and families in need.

Kobe Bryant and Gianna

“Together we will celebrate all those who lost their lives in Sundays tragedy. Rip to my brother, my friend and my homie. The Black Mama. Until we meet again,” O’Neal concluded.

Vanessa, who broke her silence on his and Gianna’s sudden deaths, also revealed her plans to help support the victims.

She announced that the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up a new charity in hopes of providing relief to the families of the Altobellis, the Chesters as well as Mauser and Zobayan.

“We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately,” Vanessa wrote on Instagram.

“To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy,” Vanessa wrote. “To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org.”

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Bryant and the group were on their way to a youth basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Academy when the aircraft crashed into a mountain at around 10 a.m., according to ESPN. The NBA legend was 41.

In her statement on Wednesday, Vanessa thanked “the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time.”

Kobe Bryant
| Credit: Allen Berezovsky/Getty

“We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri,” she added.

Vanessa shared that while she is not sure how to recover from their tragic and sudden deaths, she and her family are going to “keep pushing.”