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'Babe, Take Care of Our Gigi': Lines From Kobe Memorial

Newser — Evann Gastaldo

The Staples Center, where Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant spent much of his career, on Monday hosted a huge memorial service for the fallen NBA star and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna "Gigi" Bryant.

The date was chosen in honor of the father and daughter's basketball jersey numbers, 2 for Gigi and 24 for Kobe. ESPN reports that more than 20,000 people attended; in addition to friends and family, members of the public were granted tickets via a lottery for which 80,000 people applied.

Proceeds will benefit the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation. Beyonce opened the ceremony (which Jay-Z's Tidal streamed for subscribers and non-subscribers alike here) by singing "XO," which she said was one of Kobe's favorites; Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera performed later.

Jimmy Kimmel served as a sort of emcee for the event, per People, which reports that he wept as he initially took the stage. Standout lines from the memorial, per CNN and People.

  • Kobe's widow, Vanessa Bryant, said of Gigi, "She was daddy's girl but I know she loved her mama." And she says her daughter, who was already fighting for equal pay for women in sports, would have done big things.

"She would have made a huge difference for women's basketball. Gigi was motivated to change the way everyone viewed women in sports."

  • As for her husband, Vanessa Bryant recalled his "tender heart" and love of tearjerker movies and romance, telling the story of the time he bought her the blue dress Rachel McAdams wore in The Notebook.

"We hoped to grow old together like the movie. We really had an amazing love story. We loved each other with our whole beings, and two imperfect people raising a beautiful family."

  • She also called him "the MVP of girl dads," and said of him and Gigi, "God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to heaven together." She then said to Kobe, "Babe, you take care of our Gigi. … we're still the best team."
  • Oregon Ducks college basketball player Sabrina Ionescu recalled growing close to, and ultimately teaching, Gigi after she and Kobe came to a college game.

"If I represent the present of the women's game, Gigi was the future, and Kobe knew it, so we decided to build a future together."

  • University of Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma said Kobe stepped back so his daughter could shine.

"He wasn't being Kobe Bryant. He was allowing Gigi to be Gigi, not Kobe Bryant's daughter," he said, recalling his amusement when Kobe asked for advice: "The uncoachable one wants to talk about coaching. Probably the most uncoachable player in the NBA during his career wants to know about coaching, and I wanted to know why. He said, 'I'm coaching my daughter's team.'"

  • Rob Pelinka, Lakers GM and Gigi's godfather, said Kobe texted him minutes before the helicopter crash asking if he knew a baseball agent because he was trying to help a friend's daughter (in fact, the surviving daughter of John Altobelli, who was killed in the crash) get a baseball agency internship.

"Kobe's last human act was heroic," Pelinka said. "He wanted to use his platform to bless and shape a young girl's future."

  • Michael Jordan remembered how Kobe used to call or text in the wee hours to discuss basketball.

"At first it was an aggravation, but then it turned into a certain passion. This kid had passion like you would never know," he said. "Kobe was my dear friend. He was like a little brother," he continued, at times crying.

"As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be. To do that, you had to put up with the aggravation, the late-night calls or the dumb questions. I took great pride as I got to know Kobe Bryant, that he was just trying to be a better person, a better basketball player."

  • Shaquille O'Neal said that he and Kobe "fought and we bantered back and forth with offhanded remarks, but make no mistakes, and you folks thought we were on bad terms, and when the cameras were turned off we would wink at each other and said, 'let's go whip some ass.'"
(Also Monday, Vanessa Bryant sued over the deaths of Kobe and Gigi.)

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This article originally appeared on Newser: 'Babe, Take Care of Our Gigi': Lines From Kobe Memorial