Alicia Keys Celebrates Kobe & Vanessa Bryant’s Love With Stirring Memorial Tribute

During the memorial for Kobe Bryant, Alicia Keys honored the late NBA Icon by playing Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata,' a song that held a very special place in Vanessa Bryant's heart -- and the performance left her in tears.

View gallery
Image Credit: Shutterstock

One month after the devastating crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others, thousands packed the Staples Center for the Kobe and Gianna memorial. It was a chance to express the grief over the loss of the NBA icon and those killed in the Jan. 26 crash, and that pain was expressed beautifully by Alicia Keys. Seated at a grand piano, Alicia played Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Right before the performance, the world learned about how the song held a significant place in Kobe and Vanessa Bryant’s heart.

As it was revealed by Rob Pelinka, Kobe taught himself “Moonlight Sonata” – a piece of classical music that is reportedly hard to play – by ear so he could play it for his wife. He wanted to do something romantic for his life. “Kobe said he hadn’t been sleeping much because he was missing V and the girls,” said Rob. “So at night, he vowed to teach himself—by ear—to play the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata…by the end of the week he had the entire piece mastered.” Kobe, a music virtuoso, transformed this piece of classical music into a testament of his love for his wife.

As a pop culture icon, Kobe’s death was felt by those beyond the basketball court. During the 2020 Grammys — held on just hours after the deadly Jan. 26 crash that killed Kobe, Gianna, and seven others – the awards ceremony turned into a celebration of Kobe’s life. Lizzo dedicated her opening performance to Kobe. Host Alicia Keys joined Boyz II Men for a heartfelt performance of “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday.” Lil Nas X had a Kobe Bryant jersey on the set of his “Old Town Road” performance, while Rev. Run of RUN-DMC held up a white Kobe jersey during the group’s performance of “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith. DJ Khaled, John Legend, Meek Mill, Roddy Ricch, YG, and Kirk Franklin’s tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle became a celebration of Kobe, with both the rapper and NBA star’s image being projected on the massive screen inside the Staples Center.

The music world has been morning Kobe ever since the news broke about his tragic and heartbreaking death. “Kobe, you were always so sweet to me. Known you over 10 years…not super well, but we always joked about you coming over and playing that game of horse! You will be so missed by so many. You’re a legend with wings now,” wrote Demi Lovato. “I can’t fathom what the families are going through. Kobe meant so much to me and to us all. Sending my prayers, love, and endless condolences to Vanessa and the family and anyone who lost someone on that flight,” wrote Taylor Swift. “You always encouraged me, mamba. Gave me some of the best quotes that we smile about to this day! Love you, man!” grieved Justin Bieber.

Kobe – like his fellow Los Angeles Laker teammate Shaquille O’Neal – attempted his hand at branching out into hip-hop. In high school, Kobe was a member of the CHEIZAW rap group, and Sony sought out Kobe in the late 1990s in hopes of capitalizing on his youth and NBA fame. Though Kobe’s rap career never took off – his debut album, Visions, was never released – his talents can be heard on Brian McKnight’s “Hold Me,” on his collab with Tyra Banks (“K.O.B.E.”) and on “3 X’s Dope,” a song on Shaq’s Respect album.

More From Our Partners