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Emotional Tributes Were Paid To NBA Legend Kobe Bryant During Memorial


Here in Los Angeles yesterday, fans, friends and family of the late basketball star Kobe Bryant paid their respects at the Staples Center. NPR's Mandalit del Barco was at the memorial, and she filed this report.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting) Kobe, Kobe, Kobe.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: They chanted for Kobe Bryant outside and inside the arena where he played for the LA Lakers for his entire 20-year career. The memorial for him and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was a star-studded event, with Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera performing. Basketball legends Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal paid emotional tributes to Bryant, who they called their little brother. And Vanessa Bryant tearfully talked about her husband and their daughter, Gianna, who Kobe had been coaching to play basketball. The same day, Bryant sued the company that operated the helicopter that crashed, killing Kobe, Gianna and seven others last month. One of the fans who attended the memorial was 31-year-old Vanessa Torres (ph), who says she admired Kobe's wife.

VANESSA TORRES: I don't know how she did it because I wouldn't have been able to do that.

DEL BARCO: As a native Angelena, Torres said she grew up watching Kobe Bryant play with the Lakers.

TORRES: He was just true to LA. And I think he had such an appeal to the Latino community as well, you know? He spoke Spanish and he really embraced it. He was married to a Latina. And, you know, his daughters were part Latina.

DEL BARCO: You can see the tributes on city buses and walls all across LA and the region. Torres' friend, Louie (ph), who goes by his artist name Sloe, painted two of the many murals honoring Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

SLOE: I don't believe you're LA if you don't rock with Kobe.

DEL BARCO: Sloe plans to paint 24 murals in all, as 24 was the jersey number Bryant wore as an LA Laker.

SLOE: Kobe always made me a competitor. And I'll be doing these murals and pretty much trying to outdo everybody because that's what he taught me. That's LA mentality, I believe.

DEL BARCO: Proceeds from the memorial are going to the Mamba & Mambacita Foundation, which Kobe Bryant set up to promote girls' sports.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.