Kobe Bryant's widow pays heartbreaking tribute to husband and daughter at memorial
24 February 2020, 23:13
Vanessa Bryant has said she and late husband Kobe Bryant are "still the best team" at a public memorial for him and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
The pair tragically died in a helicopter crash last month alongside seven others.
Speaking at times through tears, Vanessa Bryant praised her husband's devotion, and said: "God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other.
"He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi."
Vanessa had been with Kobe since she was only 17-years-old, and the pair shared four daughters together, the youngest being only eight-months.
But in her emotional tribute, Vanessa acknowledged that even in death, they would both be caring for their children together.
She said: "Babe, you take care of our Gigi. I got Nati, BiBi and Coco, and we're still the best team.
"We love and miss you, Boo-Boo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day. We love you both and miss you forever and always."
Tens of thousands of fans filled the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, the arena where Bryant played most of his career for the Lakers.
The ceremony began with Beyonce performing her songs XO and Halo with dozens dozens of back-up musicians.
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.
The concourse was a sea of people dressed in the team colours of purple and yellow and others in black. On the scoreboard, the Bryant family's life flashed by in pictures.
Money from ticket sales will be given to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which supports youth sports programmes in under-served communities and teaches sports to girls and women.
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 the Staples Centre to commiserate after the crash.
The memorial happened as it emerged Vanessa has filed a wrongful death lawsuit saying the pilot was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions on January 26 and should have aborted the flight that killed all nine people aboard.
The lawsuit names Island Express Helicopters and also targets pilot Ara Zobayan's representative or successor, listed only as "Doe 1" until a name can be determined.
The lawsuit says Mr Zobayan - who also died in the crash - was negligent in eight ways, including failing to properly assess the weather, flying into conditions he was not cleared for and failing to control the helicopter.
Mr Zobayan, Bryant's frequent pilot, had been trying to navigate in heavy fog that limited visibility to the point that the Los Angeles police and sheriff's departments had grounded their helicopter fleets.
Under the visual flight rules Mr Zobayan was following, he was required to see where he was going. He had been cited by the Federal Aviation Administration in May 2015 for violating those rules by flying into reduced visibility air space, the lawsuit said.
In his last transmission, he told air traffic control that he was climbing to 4,000ft to get above the clouds. He was 100ft short of breaking through the cloud cover when the helicopter banked left and plunged into a grassy hillside, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB has not concluded what caused the crash in Calabasas, on the outskirts of Los Angeles County, but said there was no sign of mechanical failure. A final report is not expected for a year or so.
Island Express issued a statement on January 30 saying the shock of the crash had prompted it to suspend services until it was appropriate for staff and customers.
Island Express has had at least three helicopter crashes since 1985, two of them fatal, according to the NTSB's accident database. All involved flights to or from the company's main destination of Santa Catalina Island, about 20 miles off the southern California coast.