Just hours after news broke that Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles, the music community came together at Los Angeles’ Staples Center for the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards. In the stadium home of the Lakers, with whom Bryant played for his entire career, his two retired numbers, 8 and 24, were lit up in tribute. Outside the arena, fans gathered to mourn the loss.
The show kicked off with a performance from Lizzo, the night’s most-nominated artist, who paid tribute to Bryant before launching into a medley. “Tonight is for Kobe,” she said, then began her song “Cuz I Love You,” which begins with the lyrics, “I’m crying ‘cuz I love you.”
Alicia Keys, the evening’s host, followed with a subdued and heartfelt speech. “To be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now, because earlier today Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero,” she said, visibly shaken. “Right now, Kobe and his daughter Gianna and all those that have been tragically lost today are in our spirit, are in our hearts, are in our prayers, they’re in this building.”
She then was joined by Boyz II Men for an a capella performance of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” “Music — it’s the most healing thing in the world,” Keys added. “So let’s get some healing going on.”
Just a few minutes later, an emotional Lizzo used her time onstage to accept an award to also remind viewers of the importance of connection. “All my little problems I thought were big as the world are gone,” she said. “I realize there are people hurting right now… Let’s continue to reach out, hold each other down and lift each other up.”
Later in the broadcast, in another gesture to the basketball legend, a performer held up a Kobe Bryant jersey onstage while Aerosmith and Run-DMC sang their remixed version of “Walk This Way.”
A few moments after, Bryant’s jersey once again made a silent statement: this time it was draped over a lounge chair as part of the set for Lil Nas X’s star-studded “Old Town Road” performance. The young rapper, who’s up for Best New Artist among other awards, sang the first section of his record-breaking song with the jersey prominently displayed next to him.
During a tribute to late rapper Nipsey Hussle featuring stars like Meek Mill and John Legend, DJ Khaled closed out the performance by shouting out to both the artist and Kobe Bryant; Bryant’s face was projected alongside Nipsey’s behind the stage.
And as Alicia Keys ended the night after awarding the final prizes, she once more brought attention to Bryant, concluding the evening with the superstar’s memory and calling for support for his family. Throughout a show of mixed highs and lows, the shock of Bryant’s passing ran as a sobering thread as his many celebrity fans and friends just started to come to terms with the tragedy.
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