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LIVE UPDATES: Los Angeles honors Kobe, Gianna Bryant with public memorial |

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LIVE UPDATES: Los Angeles honors Kobe, Gianna Bryant with public memorial

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant’s wife offered a poignant portrait of her NBA superstar husband and their daughter Monday at a sold-out memorial service for the two, who were among nine people killed last month in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles.

Speaking at times through tears, Vanessa Bryant praised her husband’s devotion as she addressed thousands of fans gathered at Staples Center to remember Bryant and 13-year-old Gianna.

Vanessa Bryant speaks during a celebration of life for her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“God knew they couldn’t be on this Earth without each other,” Vanessa Bryant said. “He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi.”

Vanessa Bryant

The service took place at the downtown arena where Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 17 seasons of his two-decade NBA career.

The ceremony began with Beyonce performing her songs “XO” and “Halo” with dozens of dozens of backup musicians.

After Jimmy Kimmel welcomed the crowd, Vanessa Bryant remembered the family’s life with Gianna and her three siblings and then eulogized her husband. They had been together since 1999.

“He was the most amazing husband,” she said. “Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. I was fire. He was ice. Vice versa at times. … He was my everything.”

Vannessa Bryant

The crowd included Lakers greats such as Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Pau Gasol. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver joined Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and dozens of current NBA players, including Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Russell Westbrook.

Former Los Angeles Lakers watch during a celebration of life for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Among the early arriving fans was Alyssa Shapiro, 27, of Huntington Beach, who said she was inspired to become a basketball player after watching countless Lakers games with her father.

The family’s love of the game — and Bryant’s work in women’s sports — prompted her to become a middle school girls’ basketball coach. Her team had played Gianna’s team and she would watch Bryant cheer for his daughter in the stands.

Holding homemade heart-shaped “Kobe” and “Gigi” signs, she said she went up to Bryant to introduce herself at a game.

“I just wanted to thank him for being such an inspiration to me,” she said. “I grew up watching him on the screen. … It made me realize he’s more than just that guy out on the court.”

The concourse was a sea of people dressed in the team colors of purple and yellow and others in black. On the scoreboard, the Bryant family’s life flashes by in pictures.

Fans arrive for a celebration of life for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The service began just hours after Vanessa Bryant sued the owner of the helicopter that crashed in the fog last month. The wrongful-death lawsuit claimed that the pilot, Ara Zobayan, was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions.

At the arena, fans were given a program containing photos, a purple KB pin and a T-shirt with photos of the father and daughter. The concourse was a sea of purple, gold and black clothing.

Also in the crowd was Bob Melendez, 72, who has been a season ticket holder for 40 years. After seeing Bryant play for the Lakers for years — including at his retirement game — Melendez said he could not imagine missing the memorial.

He wore a black No. 24 jersey and Lakers jacket he bought for Bryant’s final game.

“I’d never dreamed I’d be wearing this” at Bryant’s memorial, he said.

Melendez was joined by friends Tom Ling and Rene Vega, who said his grandchildren and Bryant’s children attend the same school. Bryant called Vega “Grandpa.”

Ling, wearing a silver No. 8 jersey, said the news of Bryant’s death was initially too awful to accept.

“We didn’t want to believe it,” he said.

The service will feature speakers reflecting on Kobe Bryant’s impact on his sport and the world, along with music and retrospectives on Bryant’s on-court achievements. Bryant became active in film, television, and writing after he retired from basketball in 2016.

Bryant’s family, dozens of sports greats and many major figures in Bryant’s public life were expected to attend.

Kobe Bryant’s parents Joe and Pam Bryant arrive for a celebration of life for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Money from ticket sales was to be given to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which supports youth sports programs in underserved communities and teaches sports to girls and women.

Vendors sold flowers, Laker’s scarves, and commemorative newspapers and jerseys. Buses drove up and down Figueroa Street with their signs lit up with “RIP KOBE.”

Donnell Dorsey arranges Kobe Bryant memorabilia outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. Dorsey slept along Figueroa Street Sunday night to claim a spot to sell merchandise outside the public memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. Dorsey said he sold out of Bryant-related T-shirts and hats five times the day after the basketball superstar died. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)

Bryant played his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, who moved from the Forum to Staples Center when it opened in 1999. The five-time NBA champion’s two retired jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — hang high above the arena where he became the third-leading scorer in league history until Lakers star LeBron James passed him on the night before Bryant’s death.

Bryant’s death caused an outpouring of grief across Los Angeles, where he remained the city’s most popular athlete into retirement. Dozens of public memorials and murals have been installed around the sprawling metropolis, and thousands of fans gathered daily outside Staples Center to commiserate after the crash.

Fans carry posters of Kobe Bryant near the Staples Center before a public memorial for former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in Los Angeles, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Symbolic meanings will run throughout the ceremony, which will be held on a 24-foot-by-24-foot stage. Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, and Gianna’s mother chose Feb. 24 as the date in honor of the uniform numbers of Kobe and Gianna, who wore No. 2 on her youth basketball teams.

LIVE UPDATES: The Latest on the public memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna in downtown Los Angeles at the Staples Center

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11:45 a.m.

The University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach says he came to the public memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna as a father, not as a basketball coach.

Geno Auriemma described to the Staples Center audience Monday the excitement that 13-year-old Gianna showed while visiting UConn, where she had hoped to one day play basketball.

Bryant and Gianna were killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash last month while they headed to a basketball tournament that the teen was going to play in.

The memorial event began with a performance by Beyonce. Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, brought tears to people’s eyes as she spoke, giving an intimate portrait of her husband and daughter.

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11:30 a.m.

College basketball star Sabrina Ionescu says at a public memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna that the 13-year-old had a better fadeaway jump shot than she does.

The Oregon Ducks point guard and all-time NCAA leader with 25 triple-doubles said Monday that Gianna represented the future of the WNBA.

Ionescu called the teen “a sun just starting to rise.”

Ionescu said she modeled her game on Kobe’s. The Laker superstar watched her games on TV and regularly texted her congratulations and advice.

Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others were killed last month in a helicopter crash in foggy weather.

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11:25 a.m.

WNBA great Diana Taurasi has told the crowd at Kobe Bryant’s public memorial that watching the Lakers star play inspired her.

Bryant, who was known as the “Black Mamba,” nicknamed Taurasi the “White Mamba.”

Taurasi says Bryant had a competitive fire that ran through his veins and a willingness to work hard.

Monday’s memorial for Bryant and his daughter Gianna has drawn a sellout crowd to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The event began with Beyonce singing her hits “XO” and “Halo.” An emotional Jimmy Kimmel told the audience about the many Kobe murals that have appeared around the city since his death last month.

Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, brought tears to people’s eyes as she spoke, giving an intimate portrait of her husband and daughter.

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11:10 a.m.

Vanessa Bryant has given mourners at a public memorial for Kobe Bryant and their daughter Gianna an intimate portrait of her husband.

She said the world saw Kobe as a celebrity and basketball legend — the Black Mamba — but to her, he was her best friend and protector.

Vanessa described him as a loving husband and devoted father with a tender heart who was “the MVP of girl dads.”

He loved to watch romantic movies with them and put them to bed every night.

Vanessa said she and Kobe planned to renew their vows and travel the world together.

They talked about how they looked forward to becoming the “cool grandparents” after their kids have their own children.

Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others were killed last month in a helicopter crash in foggy weather. Vanessa Bryant on Monday sued the company that operated the helicopter.

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11:00 a.m.

Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, said at a public memorial that the outpouring of love and support from around the world has uplifted the family in their grief.

She fought back tears Monday as described Gianna as a sweet, thoughtful soul who loved always kissing her mother good morning and goodnight.

Vanessa said Gianna loved swimming, singing along with hit songs, baking cookies and watching “Survivor” and NBA games with her father.

She says the 13-year-old loved basketball so much she even offered the boys’ school team advice.

Vanessa predicted that Gianna could have become “the best player in the WNBA.”

Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others were killed last month in a helicopter crash in foggy weather. Vanessa Bryant on Monday sued the company that operated the helicopter.

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10:55 a.m.

A host of NBA greats past and present are mourning at the public memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

Jerry West, Phil Jackson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Pau Gasol, and Steph Curry are among the crowd at Staples Center on Monday.

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel introduced Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, who received a standing ovation from the crowd.

An emotional Vanessa thanked the crowd for coming, saying she’s received an outpouring of love.

Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others were killed last month in a helicopter crash in foggy weather while heading to a basketball tournament that Gianna was to play in.

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10:55 a.m.

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel says at a public memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna that the world could be “grateful for the time we had with them.”

An emotional Kimmel said Monday that a positive thing he found to take away from the tragedy was gratitude for the lives of the nine people killed last month in a helicopter crash and “the time we have left with each other.”

Kimmel said sports is unique in that it brings together people from various backgrounds to celebrate something they all love.

Nearly the entire crowd heeded Kimmel’s suggestion that they introduce themselves and shake hands and hug the people next to them. That was followed by a spontaneous chant of “Kobe.”

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10:45 a.m.

Fans attending the public memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna are watching a video of highlights from the 20-year career of the former Los Angeles Lakers star.

Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, could be seen looking up at the big video screens with tears in her eyes.

The memorial began Monday at Staples Center with Beyonce singing her hits “XO” and “Halo.” Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel spoke first.

Fans fortunate enough to get tickets to the service filled the arena, where a stage surrounded by thousands of red roses has replaced the basketball court.

Bryant, his daughter, and seven others were killed last month in a helicopter crash in foggy weather while heading to a basketball tournament that Gianna was to play in.

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10:30 a.m.

The public memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna has begun at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The memorial began Monday with a musical performance by Beyonce, who sang her song “XO.”

Fans fortunate enough to get tickets to the service filled the arena, where a stage surrounded by thousands of red roses has replaced the basketball court.

Bryant, his daughter, and seven others were killed last month in a helicopter crash in foggy weather while heading to a basketball tournament that Gianna was to play in.

Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that operated the helicopter, saying the pilot killed in the crash was negligent and careless

10:30 a.m.

The widow of Kobe Bryant has sued the owner of the helicopter that crashed in fog and killed her husband and her 13-year-old daughter last month.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant in Los Angeles says the pilot was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions Jan. 26 and should have aborted the flight.

Pilot Ara Zobayan was among the nine people killed in the crash.

The lawsuit was filed as a public memorial service for Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and all the victims was being held at the arena where Bryant played most of his career.

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10 a.m.

Los Angeles Lakers fans are pulling on commemorative T-shirts they were given of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna at a public memorial for the two, who were killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash last month.

Many fans are violating the cellphone use ban inside Staples Arena on Monday and are taking photos and videos.

It’s somber and people are chatting in whispers and leafing through programs from their seats as songs like Eric Clapton’s “Layla,” the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” play in the minutes before the formal ceremony starts.

The memorial will feature speakers reflecting on Bryant’s impact on basketball and the world, along with music and retrospectives on Bryant’s on-court achievements.

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9:45 a.m.

Los Angeles Lakers fans are filing into Staples Center to remember Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash last month.

The arena where Bryant played features a stage surrounded by thousands of red roses below the scoreboard that’s showing images of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter.

Fans arriving for Monday’s public memorial service are being given a program that only contains photos, a purple KB pin and a T-shirt with photos of the father and daughter.

The concourse is a sea of purple, gold and black clothing.

Dozens of fans took photos with a mural inside Staples Center of Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal after a championship win.

Janel Alexander of Encino said the mural brought back good memories of “a moment in time that was better than today.”

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8:40 a.m.

While waiting for Kobe Bryant’s memorial services to begin in Los Angeles, Alyssa Shapiro says she was inspired to become a basketball player after watching countless Lakers games with her father, Rick Shapiro.

The family’s love of the game and Bryant’s work in women’s sports prompted her to become a middle school girls’ basketball coach. Her team played the team of Bryant’s daughter Gianna, who died with her father and seven others in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash.

Alyssa Shapiro said before the memorial service Monday for Bryant and his daughter that she watched Bryant cheer for Gianna from the stands.

She held homemade heart-shaped “Kobe” and “Gigi” signs ahead of the memorial service and said she “just wanted to thank him for being such an inspiration to me.”

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7:30 a.m.

Fans are arriving hours early for the public memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna that will be held in downtown Los Angeles

Among them is 72-year-old Bob Melendez, who says he has been a Lakers season ticket holder for 40 years.

Melendez says that after seeing Bryant play for many years he couldn’t imagine missing Monday’s memorial at Staples Center.

His friend Tom Ling says he couldn’t believe it when heard of Bryant’s death.

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

The memorial is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Los Angeles time.

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12: 30 a.m.

Thousands of mourners are expected to gather at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles to say farewell to Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

The basketball superstar and his 13-year-old daughter will be honored in a public memorial at the arena where Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kobe and Gianna Bryant died along with seven others on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash.

The memorial will feature speakers reflecting on Kobe Bryant’s impact on his sport and the world, along with music and retrospectives on Bryant’s on-court achievements. Bryant became active in film, television, and writing after he retired from basketball in 2016.

Bryant’s family, dozens of sports greats and many major figures in Bryant’s public life are expected to attend.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates shared from The Associated Press.

A private funeral was held for Kobe and Gianna Bryant in Orange County on Feb. 7.

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