Jimmy Kimmel Pays Tearful Tribute to Kobe Bryant: ‘Everywhere You Go, You See His Face’

Barely holding back tears, host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel paid tribute to Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant and the other victims of the helicopter crash that took their lives last month.

I don’t think any of us could have imagined this,” he said. “Everywhere you go, you see his face, his number, Gigi’s face, Gigi’s number at every intersection. There are hundreds of murals painted by artists who were inspired not because he’s a basketball player, but because Kobe was an artist, too.” 

Kimmel noted that there were murals of the NBA star not just in Los Angeles, but across the country, even, “Boston, for God’s sake,” he quipped.

“In places where you would be booed on the court, Kobe is missed. Even the great Boston Celtic Bill Russell wore number 24 on a Lakers jersey to yesterday’s game. I knew he would come to us eventually,” said Kimmel, eliciting laughter. “Today we’re joined by Kobe’s teammates and opponents alike, his friends, his family and his fans, as we try to make sense of what happened to these nine beautiful people who were by all accounts so full of life, who left behind parents, friends, coworkers, classmates, siblings and children. I’ve been trying to come up with something positive to take away from this, and it was hard because there isn’t much, but the best thing I think I was able to come up with is this: gratitude.”

Kimmel encouraged the audience to be grateful for the time that they shared with Bryant and “for the time we have left with each other, and that’s all.” 

“In the Catholic Church, you know, which the Bryant family is part of, at mass we share the sign of peace,” he said. “This is a moment to hug or shake hands with people around you, and it occurred to me that that is something that only seems to happen at church and at sporting events, when perfect strangers who love the same team are suddenly hugging and high-fiving and celebrating together.” 

Kimmel then asked mourners at the memorial to introduce themselves to the people beside them, “to be grateful for life and for the fact that we are all here together.” 

The crowd then broke out into chants of “Kobe!  Kobe! Kobe!” before Kimmel introduced Bryant’s widow and Gianna Bryant’s mother, Vanessa Bryant.

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