Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera performed at the public memorial for late basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna on Monday.
The superstar kicked off the Celebration of Life event, held to remember the duo and the other seven people who died in a helicopter crash in January, at the Staples Center by performing XO in a gold suit, a nod to the Los Angeles Lakers colours, in front of a choir and a small orchestra.
“I’m here because I love Kobe, and this was one of his favourite songs,” she told the audience. She also sang her hit Halo.
Keys, who performed a tribute to Bryant at the Grammys last month, took to the stage at the home of the Lakers in a purple suit, another team colour, and played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which Bryant taught himself to play for his wife Vanessa, on a purple piano, while Aguilera closed the show with a moving rendition of Ave Maria with an orchestra.
The Celebration of Life event also featured highlight clips of Bryant’s basketball career and his life with his family, beamed onto the Staples Center’s famous jumbotron screens.
His friend Jimmy Kimmel served as the event’s MC, but confessed he was the “wrong person” to lead the memorial as he sobbed while honouring his late friend and the victims of the crash.
Vanessa took the stage to thank fans and friends for their support. Dressed all in black and fighting back tears, she called Bryant “my soulmate”, adding, “To me, he was Ko-ko, my boo boo, my bae-boo… I couldn’t see him as a celebrity, nor just an incredible basketball player; he was my sweet husband and the beautiful father of my children. He was mine. He was my everything.
“I was his first girlfriend, his first love, his wife, his best friend, his confidante and his protector. He was the most amazing husband. Kobe loved me more than I could ever express… we balanced each other out…
“A couple of weeks before they passed, Kobe sent me a sweet text and mentioned how he wanted to spend time together, just the two of us, without our kids, because I’m his best friend first. We never got the chance to do it… But I’m thankful I have that recent text. It means so much to me.
“Kobe wanted us to renew our vows… and he wanted to travel the world together.”
Tearing up at the end of her speech, Vanessa told the crowd that God knew Kobe and Gigi couldn’t exist without each other, adding, “He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi… We love and miss you Boo Boo and GiGi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day.”
She received a standing ovation as she walked off the stage.
Other speakers included basketball stars Diana Taurasi, Sabrina Ionescu, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, college basketball coach Geno Auriemma, and Lakers general manager and Bryant’s best friend and former agent Rob Pelinka.
Among the mourners were Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Spike Lee, Jennifer Lopez, basketball great Magic Johnson, and current stars Stephen Curry, Dwight Howard, and James Harden.
The proceeds from ticket sales for the Celebration of Life event will benefit the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, which Vanessa relaunched earlier this month.