by G. Brown
The night was designed to shine on the biggest stars of music, but the sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant turned songs of celebration into a melody of tribute.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine to perish in a helicopter as it crashed into a hillside Sunday morning in Calabasas, California. By Sunday night, the news of the tragic deaths had shaken not only California but the entire country and much of the world.
With the shocking news only hours old, the Grammys was still scheduled to take place at the Staples Center—the place where Bryant played for 20 years with his team the LA Lakers. Many referred to the Staples Center as the ‘house that Kobe built.’
While many of the stars present personally knew or at least had met Kobe, even in mourning they were aware the show had to go on.
Singer Lizzo kicked off the first of many tributes with the declaration “Tonight is for Kobe.” Dressed in a lavish black gown, Lizzo opened with “Cuz I Love You”, a stirring ballad that resonated with many of the performers, the audience and the world.
The night usually reserved for celebration and fun was full of sorrow, shock and sombreness. Host Alicia Keys was joined onstage by Boyz II Men to dedicate a special acapella rendition of “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye”. Keys said, “Here we are together on music’s biggest night, celebrating our artists that do it best but to be honest with you we’all feeling crazy sadness right now because earlier today Los Angeles, America, and the whole wide world lost a hero. And we’re literally standing here, heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
Keys then asked the audience to join in a moment of silence to “share our strength and support…” with the families of all the victims in the crash.
Artists including Rick Ross, Kirk Franklin, and Billy Ray Cyrus all paid tribute. Just about every performer found the words or some symbolic way to honor Bryant. Pop Star Billie Eilish thought that like many of us that the news of Kobe’s death was fake. She says she was sitting in the green room waiting for the awards show to begin. When the reality of his death slowly began to sink in, Eilish said, “It’s genuinely unbelievable…I feel like anything I say is not enough…”
Rappers Ryn-DMC held up a jersey emblazoned with the number 24 in honor of Bryant.
Singer John Legend, rapper Meek Mill along with Kirk Franklin and DJ Khaled gave a tribute to both Bryant and West Coast rapper, activist and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle who was shot 10 times and killed in the parking lot of his store. A giant screen brought both men back to life momentarily with pictures from throughout their career.
The Grammy Awards was a microcosm of the world showing how millions, even billions of people who never even met Bryant were touched by his life.
In Kobe Japan, the town that Bryant was named after, Mayor Kizo Hisamoto issued a statement saying, “Our city had the good fortune of crossing paths with Kobe Bryant as his father named him after the city, gave his love of Kobe beef….Kobe Bryant was an international superstar who also held a special place for the people of Kobe city.”.
TRN joins with millions around the globe to extend heartfelt condolences to the Bryant family for their loss and the families of all those devastated by Sunday’s plane crash.
Rest in paradise to all the victims.