Return to Transcripts main page


Public Memorial For Kobe And Gianna Bryant. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired February 24, 2020 - 14:30   ET



GENO AURIEMMA, WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT: I remember when Gigi came, as you saw in the video, I remember the very first game she came to, and she came into the locker room. Here she is, and the look on her face, the smile, the way her eyes just took everything in, how excited she was to be around in her mind royalty.

It's ironic. Her father is royalty. And she's excited to be around royalty that looks just like what she wants to be.

And the most impressive thing about that point in time was how Kobe stepped as far back as he could so anybody taking pictures, anybody there would not know that this was Kobe Bryant's daughter. This was her moment. This was her time to shine. This was her time to experience all the things that he's experienced his whole life.

He was being dad. He wasn't being Kobe Bryant. He was allowing Gigi to be Gigi, not Kobe Bryant's daughter. In today's day and age, that's a hell of a thing for parents to be able to do.


AURIEMMA: I'm going to leave you with just two things. We got a letter -- oh, I got to tell you -- you didn't see it, but she did meet the women's basketball team. And they all gathered around and said, do you want to take a picture. Everybody ran over, and Gigi goes, no, I'm good.


AURIEMMA: She knew where her heart was.


AURIEMMA: You know that little sarcasm, I'm good.


AURIEMMA: And when they came to UConn and sat behind the bench, and there's dad bringing his daughter to a game, and they had their shirts on and she has this coat on and she has her hat on, and she's just a little kid at a game. And again, I felt more like a dad than a basketball coach, because I have done that with my kids.

Lastly, number 24, number eight and number two. Those are basketball numbers. Those are numbers in the past. Those are numbers we're not going to get back.

What we do have is today, how many numbers of kids like Diana have been inspired to do more, to work harder, to strive for more. The numbers we also don't have is how many numbers of kids in the future, how many women are going to be inspired by Gigi's life. How many fathers are inspired by Kobe to be fathers, to really be fathers, the way a father is supposed to be.


AURIEMMA: In this room, there's an incredible amount of talent. In this room, there's maybe the greatest collection of talent that I have ever been around. But in this room, there's a family and there's still a team back home and they still have a great coach and I am going to be rooting for that team from here on end.

Thank you very much.



Now I want to play for UConn women's basketball team.


KIMMEL: Our next speaker is the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers. Before that, he was Kobe's agent and, most notably for our purposes today, he is one of Kobe's closest and best friends and godfather to Gigi.

Please welcome Rob Pelinka.


ROB PELINKA, GENERAL MANAGER: LOS ANGELS LAKERS: The world knows Kobe has a basketball legend but I have been blessed for 20 years to know him as so much more. The Kobe I knew had three sides I hope to honor today. Kobe the best friend. Kobe the dad and Kobe the husband.


I will start with Kobe the best friend. Do you remember where on that foggy sunless morning on January 26th when the axis of the world seemed to shift for all of us? I was in Sunday church with my family and my phone was deep in my jeans and when I noticed the text buzz, and I ignored it at first because I was in church.

But for some reason, with this text, and I felt a sudden urge to check my phone. And I slipped it out of my jeans and discovered the text was from Kobe. Nothing uncharacteristic or unfamiliar about this. For the last two decades, Kobe and I talked or texted every single day, because that's what best friends do.

And in that moment, my instincts were to put the phone down and get back to the message. And then I looked at the text, and I saw that Kobe was asking me if I happened to know a certain baseball agent based in southern California. Since Kobe's question didn't have any urgency to answer the question, and I thought I would wait until after church to respond.

But then again, there was a gentle nudge. I texted Kobe back that I had seen the baseball agent at a Lakers game the other night and was happy to help him with whatever he wanted.

It was just now past 9:30. Kobe texted back explaining a desire to help a friend of his secure a baseball agency internship for one of his young daughters. Kobe vouched for the girl's character, intelligence and work ethic. He clearly wanted to champion a bright future for her. I texted Kobe right back and said I would put a plan in motion to help him get that done.

A handful of minutes later, Kobe and Gianna and seven other beautiful souls ascended into heaven.

Kobe had been texting me from the helicopter. The girl in that text that he was wanting to help so badly was Lexi Altobelli, the surviving daughter of Coach John Altobelli, who was also on the helicopter. Kobe's last human act was heroic. He wanted to use his platform to bless and shape a young girl's future. Hasn't Kobe done that for all of us?

Kobe was literally the best friend anybody could ask for. He always championed and passionately celebrated the accomplishment of others and downplayed his own. The man who won multiple NBA titles, MVPs and an Oscar would buzz with excitement when somebody he loved would reach even a simple goal. With any achievement, Kobe was always the first to call. This was one of his greatest gifts as a friend and something I will forever miss.

There's one story that shows this beautiful side to Kobe. As Vanessa shared, in the years following his retirement, Kobe was often one of the first carpools to pick up his daughters from school. With Kobe in poll position, my kids who attended the same school got to see him often. Every time they would see him, he would greet them with enthusiasm as if they had done something like won student of the year.

The other day, my nine-year-old daughter had big tears in her eyes because she was so badly missing Uncle Kobe and Gigi. When I asked her why, she said, Daddy, whenever Kobe would see me, he would run to me and scoop me up in his arms and raise me high above his head, and Kobe made me feel like I was queen of the world.

Kobe made every moment magical as if it was in a fantasy novel.

This is one of the cases when Kobe and my family went camping, or I should say a glamping trip to Montana. We canoed, rode horses and went fly fishing and river rafting and road on a stagecoach to a campfire dinner under the stars.

At each turn, Kobe made everything an adventure, especially for the kids. And, of course, with all the wilderness activities we did, they had to be done to the nth degree. If it was fly fishing, we had to learn to tie our flies and fish standing in the stream with heavy waiter boots on. No shortcuts. Kobe's enthusiasm and joy for all things life made that trip one for a lifetime.

Another remarkable friendship quality of Kobe's is he mastered the art of making the things his friends loved things he loved.


When I got the Lakers G.M. job, Kobe would often say my life and his life flip-flopped. Instead of him, I was now the one with the regimented Lakers schedule of practices, games and road trips. I was the one with the daily commute up the 405.

On the flip side, Kobe was home doing work from his favorite spot in the world. Living with the demands of the NBA career, Kobe understood the demands it would make on my family, and so Kobe and Vanessa would check in on them and even celebrate holidays like Halloween with them. That's what friends do. Kobe lived to make other's peoples' lives better, even up to his final text.

The day after Kobe was gone, I was at home and feeling totally lost. I could not imagine life without the strength and guidance of my best friend. As part of my grieving, I felt an overwhelming need to connect with something tangible that represented our friendship, a picture, a voicemail, something he left behind.

And my wife reminded me of the book Kobe authored and recently given to me. I went upstairs and found the book in my library and opened it. And on the inside cover, he penned in with his own pen, these words, "To R.P., my brother, may you always remember to enjoy the road, especially when it's a hard one. Love Kobe."

Kobe wrote these words to me just a few months ago. Now I realize that perhaps they were meant for us all.

Kobe, my brother, this road is so hard and I don't know how to journey on without you. But I know you want us to keep going and our memories with you will give us strength to somehow move forward. As you wrote, even in the valley of unimaginable loss, we will somehow find a way to have joy.

On to Kobe's next side, Kobe, the dad. When Kobe retired from playing basketball, people asked me how I thought he would fuel his competitive drive. The answers came in a couple surprising ways.

The first was in a new sport, tennis. Right after Kobe started playing for the Lakers, we took up tennis in Newport Beach. We began having epic one-on-one battles. I picked the game up faster than him so, early on, he would fall behind and that did not sit well with Kobe at all.

So what does the Black Mamba do? The next time we met at the club, there he was sitting there with a sweat. He secretly reached out to the club's pro for secret private lessons but did not share that with me. We loved the memories and stories we would share on one of the

beautiful California mornings. He found his new dream, coaching Gianna's youth basketball team. He talked constantly about his dream to create the best youth girls' basketball's team on the planet. He did.

It started with his individual work with Gigi and quickly spread to all the girls on Team Mamba. Long practices every night, precision in everything, the individual drills and the set plays and the triangle cuts and defensive schemes. It was all Kobe's masterpiece.

I will never forget when Kobe challenged my 12-year-old son's all-star team to a game against his Mamba Team. Yes, girls versus boys. Kobe hosted a game at a local high school gym with refs, timekeepers and all. He coached from the bench but rarely said anything. Instead, the Mamba's were so well prepared, functioned like a Swiss watch. Everything seemed scripted and verses. Our boys got smashed.


Kobe and Gigi took it all in stride, and that's what the Mamba's do. Kobe's love for coaching grew and grew and grew.

I remember when Kobe turned 40, to celebrate, our families flew to Cabo to spend a long weekend at one of the most beautiful ocean estates in the world. What was the one thing Kobe wanted to do in this beautiful setting, watch the Mamba Team with Gigi and me, breaking down every play.

Kobe's love and passion for this team is the perfect representation of how deeply he loved his daughters.

At the center of all this was his precious Gigi, who my wife and I are blessed to be the godparents of. From the moment we dressed her in the white baptismal dress as an infant, she kicked and wiggled her way into our way like only a Tauris can.


Gigi was an incredible combination of strength, courage, grace and dignity with a witty sense of humor that was captivating. She smiled with her glittering eyes and was everything in the world that is good.

At our home, Gianna and her sister, Natalia, have become the gold character for kindness. Gigi was love and grace. And like her dad, her life was about blessing others.

Simply put, Gigi was Kobe's pride and joy on the basketball court and you could see it with every move she made, and with Nat. The two shared movies, and they had a common language built on joy. They could remember movie lines and sing Disney songs.

Around young children, he was like Santa Claus dressed in plain clothes. He would make kids smile, laugh and love. Kobe met a Make a Wish kid, and it was as if heaven came down to the real world. This exuberant sense of play captured how Kobe would love and father

his daughter, B.B. Like Kobe, B.B. is a child of wonderment. Every moment of B.B. was born out of joy, excitement and awe.

And Kobe had an ability to enter into that world with her. Kobe also had an energy level that would match B.B. When the two of them would play, I imagine a world coming alive where toy animals would dance, and teacups would sing and rainbows would shine. I've never had seen anything like the two of them playing together.

If you think Kobe's hands were good with the basketball, you should see how good they were with his daughter, Coco. He had the golden touch. Watching him cuddle and put Coco to sleep and caress her made you realize just how tender was. He was literally the baby whisperer. And in his arms is where you would fine Coco, always content with peace.

And Kobe would never miss a detail of his daughters lives. He would spend hours on the phone connecting and listening to the stories of their days. He just loved his girls and there was nothing in the world that meant more to him.

I remember being in the tunnel with Kobe right over there, the last time he would wear his purple and gold. Kobe fist bumped each of his daughters before he ran out the tunnel, and he said here's what you do when the world tells you, you can't do it anymore. Kobe's 60 points and win that night is only outshined by the love he has for his family, as the world's greatest girl dad.

Kobe's final side, the husband. When God made Kobe, the next great act of his was fashion Vanessa. They were matched perfectly together and I had a front row seat to being a witness to their love for 20 years. I remember all the way back to their wedding day in 2001. And in typical Kobe fashion he wanted to master every detail of that day to reflect his love for Vanessa.

One of the things he was excited most about was carrying Vanessa over the threshold of their home for the first time. Vanessa brought out Kobe's romantic side like nobody else could in the world.

He loved to celebrate holidays with her, her birthday, their anniversary, and especially Valentine's Day. Often he would call me to brainstorm ideas for romantic gifts and romantic occasions with her. He even loved to write poems and letters to her and make them into beautiful keepsake books. Simply put, Kobe's love for Vanessa was the energy for his life.

One particular story captures the depth of Kobe's love for Vanessa. There was a stretch of days when work travel was causing Kobe to be away from Vanessa longer than he wanted. And he called me to explain how hard the stretch was for him.

One night on the phone, Kobe noticed a grand piano in the hotel he was staying in. He said it sat by a tall window under the moonlit sky.

During one of our calls, he shared an idea with me. He said he had not been sleeping much at night because he was missing V. and the girls so much.

While he was away, he wanted to live in his love for Vanessa. So in the night, under a moonlit sky, he vowed to teach himself by ear to play the first movement of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."


I told him there was no way, and he was not a trained musician and that was a difficult piece of music to play. But Kobe's passion and love for Vanessa and the focus that only the Black Mamba has made this seemingly impossible goal a reality.

The next morning, he called and played the first few measures. And by the end of the week, he had the entire piece mastered and played it for me without a mistake. In my heart, I knew that was one of his grandest feats for his greatest love. Kobe had mastered one of the greatest counter movements every written as a symbol of the one of the most beautiful loves the world has ever seen.

To close, I will say this, just as the sun lights the moon to guide us through the night, Kobe and Gigi will continue to shine light in all of us. But unlike the sun, Kobe and Gigi's fuel will never burn out, because their light is eternal.

Yes, the axis of our world shifted that frightful morning a few weeks back. But with Kobe's and Gigi's moonlight, we will never have to live in darkness of night again. We will all journey on until one day we will be in Heaven together again, and this time it will be forever.

I love you, dear Kobe, and precious Gigi.

We love you, Vanessa, Nanny, B.B. and Coco. And we are here with you with great care until the end of our days.


PELINKA: Ladies and gentlemen, in a moment, here to play tribute with her own version of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata, Ms. Alicia keys.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was Grammy Sunday when we learned about the tragic loss of Kobe and Gianna and their group. Here at Staples, we were preparing for the Grammys and so was Alicia Keys.

As the world began to mourn them here at the house that Kobe built, we had to do more than that.

Thanks to the inner strength of Alicia keys. She became a messenger of comfort people gathered there that evening as well as to the rest of the world.

She's here tonight to perform one of Kobe and Vanessa's favorite musical numbers, the immortal "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven. [14:55:48]

Please welcome, Alicia Keys.






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll always be that kid from Philly. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

ANNOUNCER: From Lower Marion High School in Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This kid right here, mark my words, is going to be unbelievable.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And 4:00 that morning, 5:00 in the morning, taking 500 shots.

ANNOUNCER: How good is this kid?


ANNOUNCER: Back-to-back titles for the Los Angeles Lakers. Three-peat and a sweep.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your fourth NBA championship.


ANNOUNCER: The L.A. Lakers the 2010 NBA champions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the first time I knew about greatness. Think about, what should I do. (INAUDIBLE)

ANNOUNCER: An 81-point game.