The comedian made no jokes, and spoke through tears.
Jimmy Kimmel took the podium at the memorial service for Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the 11 other passengers on the ill-fated January 26 helicopter ride. As tears streamed down his cheeks, he said:
“I don’t think any of us could have imagined this,” he said. “Everywhere you go, you see his face, his number, Gigi’s face, Gigi’s number at every intersection. There are hundreds of murals painted by artists who were inspired not because he’s a basketball player, but because Kobe was an artist, too.”
Kimmel went on to note how communities have come together, raising murals in stadiums where Kobe was remembered as a formidable opponent:
“Today we’re joined by Kobe’s teammates and opponents alike, his friends, his family and his fans, as we try to make sense of what happened to these nine beautiful people who were by all accounts so full of life, who left behind parents, friends, coworkers, classmates, siblings and children. I’ve been trying to come up with something positive to take away from this, and it was hard because there isn’t much, but the best thing I think I was able to come up with is this: gratitude.”
Kimmel said that in a heartbreaking situation such as this, there is little one can do, but to be grateful for the time we had with Kobe, and the time we have with each other. He then asked the crowd gathered at the Staples Center for a Catholic Sign of Peace:
“In the Catholic Church, you know, which the Bryant family is part of, at Mass we share the sign of peace,” he said. “This is a moment to hug or shake hands with people around you, and it occurred to me that is something that only seems to happen at church and at sporting events, when perfect strangers who love the same team are suddenly hugging and high-fiving and celebrating together.”
The crowd began to speak in hushed tones as strangers greeted one another. Some of the folks gathered for the remembrance must have wanted to shake Kobe’s hand, however, as chants of the five-time NBA Champion’s name rang through the rafters of his team’s home court one last time.