Michael Jordan was waiting by the side of the stage after Vanessa Bryant spoke at the Celebration of Life event for Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant on Feb. 24. Vanessa had tears in her eyes as she stepped away from the podium, and Michael had a guiding hand available to lead her back to her seat. The Chicago Bulls legend took Vanessa’s hand and helped her down the stairs, as she made her way back to her spot in the crowd. Vanessa thanked Michael after he got her safely to the ground, and the sweet interaction was caught on video.
Vanessa was understandably a bit flustered after her moment onstage. She spoke about the loss of Kobe and Gianna for several minutes. While she told stories about her time with both her husband and daughter, she also got choked up while realizing that there are so many milestones that she won’t get to share with them in the future. Vanessa kept her composure throughout the entire speech, as she shared her grief with thousands of people in the Staples Center and watching around the world.
Later in the event, Michael took the stage to give a speech himself. He had tears streaming down his face from the moment he got onstage. “This kid had passion like you would never know,” Michael said, while reminiscing about playing against a young Kobe. “That’s the amazing thing about passion — if you love something, if you have a strong passion for something, you would go to the extreme to try to understand or try to get it. 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 brother that I could be.”
Michael Jordan helps Vanessa Bryant off the stage after her eulogy for Kobe and Gigi.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 24, 2020
Michael went on and discussed how his relationship with Kobe was about much more than just basketball. “We talked about business, we talked about family,” he said. “We talked about everything. And he was just trying to be a better person.” He also joked about how his tears at the memorial will now inspire yet another crying meme, like the one of him that’s already been viral on the Internet for years. The joke had the crowd cracking up, which was a nice reprieve during such a tough day.
“Kobe gave every last ounce of himself to whatever he was doing,” Michael concluded. “After basketball, he showed a creative side that I didn’t think any of us knew he had. In retirement, he seemed so happy. He found new passions, and he continued to give back as a coach in his community. More importantly, he was an amazing dad and an amazing husband, who dedicated himself to his family and who loved his daughters with all his heart. Kobe never left anything on the court, and I think that’s what he would want for us to do. No one knows how much time we have. That’s why we must live in the moment, we must enjoy the moment. We must spend as much time with our family and friends and the people we absolutely love. To live in the moment means to enjoy each and every one that we come in contact with. When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died. As I look in this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died. Those are the memories we have to live with and learn from. I promise you from this day forward, I will live with the memories that I had a little brother and that I tried to help him in every way I could.”
"In the game of basketball, in life, as a parent—Kobe left nothing in the tank. He left it all on the floor." – Michael Jordan pays tribute to his "little brother," Kobe Bryant. #TwentyFourever pic.twitter.com/E1mn0hVpZR
— E! News (@enews) February 24, 2020
Along with Michael, there were dozens of other celebrities and basketball legends in attendance at the memorial. Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kanye West, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Magic Johnson, Dwyane Wade, Gabrielle Union and more were among the guests who mourned Kobe, Gianna and the seven other victims of the helicopter crash that killed them, at the event.
Kobe, Gianna, Alyssa Altobelli, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Aras Zobayan were headed to Gianna, Alyssa and Payton’s basketball game at Mamba Academy when their helicopter crashed on Jan. 26. The pilot (Aras) and all eight passengers were tragically killed in the fiery crash. Private funeral services were held for the victims ahead of the public memorial.