Kobe Bryant’s life and legacy loomed large at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday. The ceremony was held at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, the same arena where the late NBA superstar helped lead the Lakers to five championships during his 20-year career.
Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning, shocking the sports and entertainment worlds, as well as fans around the globe.
Grammys opening performer Lizzo began by declaring, “Tonight is for Kobe.” She sang “Cuz I Love You,” followed by “Truth Hurts.”
Host Alicia Keys also vocalized the pain many people felt in the room.
“Here we are, together, on music’s biggest night, celebrating the artists that did it best. But to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” she said on stage. “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.”
She added, “They’re in our spirit, they’re in our hearts, they’re in our prayers, they’re in this building, and I would like to ask everybody to take a moment and hold them inside of you and share our strength and support and support with their families. We never imagined in a million years we would have to start the show like this, so we wanted to do something that could describe a tiny bit how we all feel right now.”
She was then joined by Boyz II Men to dedicate the group’s song “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” to Bryant.
“We love you, Kobe,” Keys said following the tribute.
Tyler, the Creator talked to reporters after his project Igor nabbed Best Rap Album, and spoke to how bittersweet it was to win tonight, of all nights.
“That news was heavy, especially just being in LA and just being here at the Staples Center within a short period of time between him and Nipsey,” he said. “And if you’re from Los Angeles, and depending on what sector you’re in, like that s— is really, really heavy. So we took a L tonight, and rest in peace to Kobe, that hurt, but also we took a win just being from Los Angeles and taking [the Grammy] home, so it’s mixed emotions.”
Before the televised portion, the Grammys were quick to honor Bryant’s memory. At the beginning of the ceremony’s pre-telecast, interim chief Harvey Mason Jr. asked for a moment of silence for Bryant, “since we are in his house.”
Outside the stadium, Grammy attendees were greeted with images of Bryant’s face on the marquee of the Microsoft Theater and elsewhere at L.A. Live.
Flags outside Staples Center were lowered to half-staff to honor Bryant, and a sizable crowd gathered to mourn the Lakers icon.
Musicians on the red carpet paid tribute to Bryant, including Wyclef Jean, who called him the “most incredible, nicest teddy bear.”
“You feel like a hammer just hit your heart,” Jean said of Bryant. “You meet this guy, he’s like the most incredible, nicest teddy bear, an example to all of us, the idea of how you’re supposed to be with your family and how you’re suppoed to be with your kids. You’re still trying to process it because there’s really no words… One of the flyest dudes… This is a model that is so important. He knows he’s beyond talented, but he’s going to perform, he’s working hard as if he has no talent.”
“I just feel like as a true champion, the champion Kobe was, I believe he would want us to celebrate his legacy — starting with tonight,” Ross told PeopleTV. “And whoever gets on that stage, whoever brings one of those home, they gotta hold it up for the Black Mamba.”
Rapper BJ the Chicago Kid, a double nominee, said he felt “a little rain on the parade” in light of Bryant’s death.
“It’s no way in the world I can not speak about the honor of Mr. Kobe Bryant and those others involved in the crash,” he said to PeopleTV, adding that he once met Bryant. “Being from Chicago, Michael Jordan is our hero. So to understand he’s a student of the same man that we love, I have nothing but love for him… I respect the man and will continue to forever.”
YBN Cordae said, “It’s just a complete tragedy. That’s all you can use to describe it. Rest in peace to his daughter.”
Rapper Yo Gotti said he found out about Bryant’s death en route to the Grammys.
“It don’t even feel real,” he said, calling himself a big Kobe fan. “I got a lot of respect for Kobe. I got two daughters myself, so hearing the information about his daughter… it’s crazy.”
Billy Ray Cyrus, who had just won two Grammys along with Lil Nas X for “Old Town Road (Remix),” said he dedicated his trophies to Kobe “and his beautiful daughter.”
“Sending my thoughts and prayers to his family and friends during this difficult time #RIPKobe,” he tweeted alongside a photo of him and Lil Nas X.
John Legend, who is taking part in a Nipsey Hussle tribute at the Grammys, reflected on the fact that the world now has to mourn two giants.
“I’m so sad and stunned right now,” Legend tweeted. “In Staples Arena, where Kobe created so many memories for all of us, preparing to pay tribute to another brilliant man we lost too soon, Nipsey Hussle. Life can be so brutal and senseless sometimes. Hold on to your loved ones. We miss you, Kobe.”