Draped in head-to-toe Lakers gold, Beyoncé opened the memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant at the Staples Center with a heart-wrenching rendition of “XO.” In the packed, 20,000-person stadium known as the house that Kobe built, Beyoncé was backed by a choir and musicians clad in all white. “I’m here because I love Kobe and this was one of his favorite songs,” the singer told the crowd. She then transitioned to “Halo,” likely eliciting tears from everyone in the room and the millions watching online.
On any normal day, Beyoncé would be an impossible act to follow. But today, possibly for the first time in her career, it was fine that she wasn’t a headliner. She was followed by a speech from Vanessa Bryant who, with an unfathomable amount of strength, was able to grace the stage and tell the world about her late daughter and husband. Jimmy Kimmel also remembered Bryant and gave the crowd a moment to offer the “sign of peace,” a staple in Catholic mass during which those gathered greet their neighbors. “I’d like to invite you right now to take a moment to say hello to the people around you. Whether you know them or not. To be grateful for life, and for the fact that we are all here together,” Kimmel said, according to the LA Times.
WNBA legend Diana Taurasi, whom Bryant dubbed “White Mamba,” followed Vanessa Bryant’s speech. Taurasi recounted the significance of Gianna Bryant’s dream to someday play in the WNBA, calling her “the future of women’s basketball.” Gianna, who was only 13, dreamed of going to college and playing basketball at UConn, just like Taurasi. She was a staple at UConn games and was honored by the team after her passing. Taurasi closed her speech with a promise to carry on Gigi’s legacy.
Since the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant; John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli; Christina Mauser; Ara Zobayan; and Sarah and Peyton Chester, the question of Kobe’s “legacy” has permeated many conversations surrounding the star basketball player. While his legacy will never be simple and straightforward, he at least lived long enough to create one. The world will have decades of memories to keep Kobe Bryant alive in their hearts; “Mamba Mentality” will be uttered by basketball coaches and sports parents until the sun swallows the earth.
But years from now, what will be left of Gianna, Peyton, and Alyssa—three young athletes who had their whole lives ahead of them? It’s left to stars like Taurasi and Sabrina Ionescu, who carry with them the memory of these girls who loved the game and wanted to form its future.