Scene at Kobe Bryant memorial filled with emotion, fans, celebrities

Scene at Kobe Bryant memorial filled with emotion, fans, celebrities

LOS ANGELES -- What started as a logistical challenge ended up being worth the trouble for thousands of Kobe Bryant fans who were lucky enough to view his celebration of life ceremony in person. 

There was a little haze in the air as camera crews from all over the world set up shop across the street from the main box office of Staples Center, where Bryant spent the majority of his 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Fans without tickets were urged not to approach the venue unless they were in possession of a ticket, which made the atmosphere much more somber and at times, even quiet. Gone were the candles and flowers that had filled the XBox Plaza just a few weeks ago. 

Clad completely in purple, gold and black, early-arriving fans were lined up outside the area by 8 a.m. PT. There was no pushing or shoving, just a slow, steady stream of people who wanted to celebrate the life of the five-time NBA champion and his daughter, both of whom perished in a helicopter crash with seven others nearly a month ago. 

There was a clear separation of media from the fans down Chick Hearn Plaza Drive and neither were allowed to interact with the other. A moat-like set of barricades kept the two sides apart, yet fans took pictures of the hundreds of cameras and likewise, the media filmed the arriving crowd. 

Around 8:30 a.m., doors to the arena opened and the streets once again were sparsely populated. While there was a consistent influx of people, there were far fewer than what you’d see for a basketball or hockey game. 

Then at 9:40, it was like the floodgates had opened. Huge crowds of attendees streamed in, apparently stuck in security lines that had wrapped around the block and down Olympic Blvd. Without the possibility of getting the majority of fans into their seats in 15 minutes, the start of the ceremony was pushed back nearly half an hour.

Jimmy Kimmel served as emcee and barely could hold back his tears as he shared memories of the 17-time NBA All-Star. The crowd was a "who’s who" of basketball’s past and present. Warriors star Steph Curry was in attendance, along with several Lakers and NBA alum like Phil Jackson, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade.

[RELATED: Kobe's support of women shines at touching service]

Performances by Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera provided uplifting moments between the emotionally powerful speakers that included WNBA player Diana Taurasi, Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, and NBA legends Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal. 

Maybe the most surprising speaker was Bryant’s wife Vanessa, who shared personal memories of both her daughter and husband. She showed incredible poise and strength while in front of the crowd, thanking them for their love, prayers and support since the tragic accident. 

Why Dwyane Wade thinks Steph Curry's greatest strength isn't shooting

Why Dwyane Wade thinks Steph Curry's greatest strength isn't shooting

If you ask most fans, they would say Steph Curry's greatest strength is his shooting ability.

After all, the Warriors' point guard owns the single-season NBA record for 3-pointers made. He's a few years away from owning the all-time record for most made triples.

But for future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade, Curry's greatest strength comes when he actually doesn't have the basketball in his hands.

During an Instagram Live chat, Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union-Wade were asked to comment on current NBA players. When they got to Curry, Union started.

"So everybody talks about, obviously Steph can shoot," Union said. "I mean, Steph is ... Steph Curry is one of those people, everything you imagine Steph Curry is, he actually is in real life."

Wade continued that thought and then offered his analysis of Curry.

"He is the nicest person in the world," Wade said. "But one of Steph's greatest strengths that a lot of people ... some people, but a lot of people don't because they talk about all the threes and ball-handling is Steph never stops moving off the ball. You guys see when Steph gives the ball up, that's when he's his most dangerous. And that's crazy to think, right? Because when he has the ball, he's unguardable.

"But when he does not have the ball, forget about it. He's like Rip Hamilton and Ray Allen, those guys when it comes to conditioning and shape that he's in and the way he's able to run. That's when he gets scary, when he gives the ball up."

Here's some evidence in case you need a reminder of Curry's ability to move without the basketball:

After Wade's final game against the Warriors in the Bay Area on Feb. 10, 2019, he swapped jerseys with Curry.

[RELATED: Steph, NBA facing harsh reality]

But in his last game ever against the Warriors, on Feb. 27, 2019, Wade broke Curry's heart with a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

What Steph Curry asked first as Warriors prepped to play without fans

What Steph Curry asked first as Warriors prepped to play without fans

On the morning of Wednesday, March 11, the world learned that the Warriors would play the Brooklyn Nets the following night at Chase Center without any fans in the building.

The decision was made in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

So who broke the news about the situation to Golden State's players? How did they react?

David Lombardi of The Athletic has the details:

“I had to go with our general manager Bob Myers and meet with our team in the locker room after practice that day and say, ‘Hey, guys, we’re playing tomorrow night and we’re gonna be playing in an arena that has no fans in it,'” (Warriors team president) Rick Welts said, recalling that moment via videochat during a virtual sports technology conference Friday. “And the looks on our players’ faces were like, ‘What? How in the world is that gonna work?’ It was really quiet for quite a while.

“Then I think Steph Curry said, ‘Can we bring our own playlist? Can we play our own music?'”

As you all are aware, there was no music because there was no game between Golden State and Brooklyn.

Later on Wednesday, the NBA suspended the season indefinitely after Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus.

A little over two weeks later and nobody has any clue when the next NBA game will be played.

[RELATED: What Steph, trainer talk most about during virus shutdown]

“How can sports be the place where people feel safe gathering in large numbers again?” Welts said. “I do think this is a little different than what we’ve seen in the past because I do think there’s gonna be a moment in time when the medical world tells us it’s OK to resume normal life. I think there’s a second psychological part of it, though.

“When are people going to truly feel comfortable and safe doing that? Am I really going to be comfortable putting myself in that environment with 18,000 other people at Chase Center to go watch a game? I’m not so sure those two things will happen at the same time.”

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