In a moving tribute to the NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, who lost their lives in a helicopter crash in January, family, friends and fans gathered at the Los Angeles' Staples Centre to bid their final goodbyes in a public memorial.
The ceremony organised in a packed stadium was attended by more than 20,000 people present inside the auditorium while several others stood outside to pay tributes to the departed souls. Earlier, in February, Kobe and Gianna were laid to rest in a private funeral ceremony.
Vanessa Bryant bids her final goodbye to Gianna
Speaking publicly for the first time since the tragedy occurred in January, Kobe's grieving widow Vanessa Bryant gave a moving tribute to her late husband and daughter, fondly called Gigi. In her speech, evoking the memories of her late daughter, Vanessa called Gigi an "amazingly sweet and thoughtful soul, who loved baking and dancing, as well as being a talented basketball player."
"She was an incredible athlete. She was great at gymnastics, soccer, softball, dance and basketball. Gigi was confident but not in an arrogant way. She loved helping and teaching other people things. At school, she offered the boys' basketball coaches to help give the boys' basketball team some pointers -- like the triangle offense," said Vanessa while sharing how Gianna and Kobe shared a "secret talent of learning the lyrics to songs after hearing them only a few times."
"Gianna Bryant is an amazingly sweet and gentle soul. She was always thoughtful. She always kissed me goodnight and kissed me good morning," Vanessa Bryant said.
Stating that Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA, Vanessa said: "I'll never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy, dance on the dance floor with me or have babies of her own. Gianna would have been an amazing mommy."
Vanessa asked Kobe to take care of Gigi, calls him MVP of Girl Dads
In her speech, Vanessa called Kobe her soulmate shared the romantic side of Kobe: "He was truly the romantic one in our relationship, and looked forward to Valentine's Day and our anniversaries every year. He planned anniversary trips and a special traditional gift for every year of our marriage. He even handmade my most treasured gifts," Vanessa said.
"He gave to me the actual notebook and the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in "The Notebook" movie. When I asked him why he chose the blue dress, he said because it was the scene when Allie comes back to Noah. We had hoped to grow old together like the movie," recalled Vanessa.
Calling Kobe 'the MVP of girl dads', Vanessa said that he was the most amazing husband. "Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words," she added. "He isn't going to be able to walk our girls down the aisle or spin me around on the dance floor," said Vanessa, who was speaking publicly for the first time since the crash.
"But I want my daughters to know and remember the amazing person, husband and father he was, the kind of man that wanted to teach the future generations to be better and keep from making his own mistakes
Ending her eulogy, Vanessa couldn't hold back her tears as she said: "God knew they (Gigi and Kobe) couldn't be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi. I got Nati, BiBi and KoKo, and we're still the best team."
'When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died'- Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan paid a moving tribute to Kobe whom he considered as a younger brother. "Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I but I just wanted to talk about Kobe," he said in his eulogy.
Addressing a packed audience at the Staples Center, the Chicago Bulls legend recalled the time when an Kobe, still and upcoming player, called him late at night to discuss the techniques related to the game. "That nuisance turned into love over a period of time. At first, it was an aggravation, but then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had a passion like you would never know. ... He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be, and as I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be," said Jordan as streams of tears rolled down his eyes.
"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died, and as I look at this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died. I promise you, from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother that I tried to help in every way I could. Please rest in peace, little brother," said Jordan before ending his speech.