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Los Angeles honors Kobe, Gianna Bryant with public memorial

Los Angeles honors Kobe, Gianna Bryant with public memorial

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant's wife offered a poignant portrait of her NBA superstar husband and their daughter Monday at a packed memorial service for the two, who were among nine people killed last month in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles.

Speaking at times through tears, Vanessa Bryant praised her husband's devotion to their family as she addressed thousands of fans gathered at Staples Center to remember Bryant and 13-year-old Gianna.

"God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other," Vanessa Bryant said. "He had to bring them home to have them together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi."

The service took place at the downtown arena where Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for the final 17 seasons of his two-decade NBA career. Thousands of Lakers fans, many wearing Bryant's jersey or team colors, attended the tearful gathering to honor Los Angeles' most popular athlete and a global basketball icon.

The ceremony began with Beyonce performing her songs "XO" and "Halo" with dozens of backup musicians. Alicia Keys performed Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" later in the program, and Christina Aguilera sang "Ave Maria."

The two-hour program concluded with "Dear Basketball," Bryant's Academy Award-winning short film.

After Jimmy Kimmel welcomed the crowd, Vanessa Bryant remembered the family's life with Gianna and her three siblings and then eulogized her husband. They had been together since 1999.

"He was the most amazing husband," she said. "Kobe loved me more than I could ever express or put into words. I was fire. He was ice. Vice versa at times. ... He was my everything."

The mourners included Lakers greats such as Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Pau Gasol. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver joined Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Phil Jackson and dozens of current NBA players, including Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles natives James Harden, Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan. Celebrities such as Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez also attended.

Jordan, the Chicago Bulls great whose career was wrapping up as Bryant's was starting in the late 1990s, praised Bryant as "one of my dear friends. He was like a little brother. ... As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be."

O'Neal and Bryant joined the Lakers together in 1996, and they won three consecutive championships during eight tumultuous seasons in purple and gold. Although their relationship was often publicly rocky, Shaq said the two were always friendly in private, even comparing their dynamic to John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

"Kobe and I pushed each other to play some of the greatest basketball of all time," O'Neal said. "I'm proud nobody has accomplished what the threepeat Lakers have done since the Shaq and Kobe Lakers did it."

O'Neal also got the biggest laugh in the somber service with a profane joke about an exchange in which Shaq told Kobe there was no "I" in team, but Bryant responded by noting that there is an "M-E."

Vanessa Bryant was followed on the podium by basketball stars Diana Taurasi and Sabrina Ionescu. Kobe Bryant was a passionate advocate for women's basketball, and Gigi Bryant was a promising young player.

"If I represented the present of the women's game, Gigi represented the future, and Kobe knew it," said Ionescu, the Oregon star who was mentored by Bryant.

Rob Pelinka, Bryant's longtime agent before he became the Lakers' general manager in 2017, referred to the day of the crash as "when the axis of the world seemed to shift forever, for all of us." Pelinka was also Gigi Bryant's godfather, and the families were close.

He also revealed that Bryant had texted him only moments before the crash, asking for help in securing an internship with a baseball agent for teenager Alexis Altobelli, who lost her parents and younger sister in the crash moments later.

"Kobe lived to make other people's lives better, all the way up to his final text," Pelinka said.

Among the early arriving fans was Alyssa Shapiro, 27, of Huntington Beach, who said she was inspired to become a basketball player after watching countless Lakers games with her father.

The family's love of the game -- and Bryant's work in women's sports -- prompted her to become a middle school girls' basketball coach. Her team had played Gianna's team and she would watch Bryant cheer for his daughter in the stands. She said she went up to Bryant to introduce herself at a game.

"I just wanted to thank him for being such an inspiration to me," she said. "I grew up watching him on the screen. ... It made me realize he's more than just that guy out on the court."

The concourse was a sea of people dressed in the team colors of purple and yellow and others in black. On the scoreboard, the Bryant family's life flashes by in pictures.

The service began just hours after Vanessa Bryant sued the owner of the helicopter that crashed in the fog last month. The wrongful-death lawsuit claimed that the pilot, Ara Zobayan, was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions.

At the arena, fans were given a program containing photos, a purple KB pin and a T-shirt with photos of the father and daughter.

Money from ticket sales was to be given to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which supports youth sports programs in underserved communities and teaches sports to girls and women.

Bryant played his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, who moved from the Forum to Staples Center when it opened in 1999. The five-time NBA champion's two retired jersey numbers -- 8 and 24 -- hang high above the arena where he became the third-leading scorer in league history. Lakers star LeBron James surpassed him on the night before Bryant's death.

Bryant remained one of the most popular figures in Los Angeles well into retirement. Dozens of public memorials and murals have been installed around the sprawling metropolis.

A private funeral was held Feb. 7 in Orange County.

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Re-live the best games of Bradley Beal's 25-point scoring streak

Re-live the best games of Bradley Beal's 25-point scoring streak

With the 2019-20 season on hold due to the coronavirus, we thought it'd be a good time to re-live some of the best moments the Wizards had before the league suspended play.

From January 20 to March 6, Bradley Beal put on one of the best scoring stretches in Wizards history. He scored at least 25 points in 21 consecutive games, good for the longest such streak in franchise history and the longest in the NBA all season, beating out the likes of James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Over that 21-game stretch, Beal averaged 36 points and 5.6 assists while shooting 48.6% from the floor and 40.7% from three on nine attempts per game. He only scored less than 30 points five times throughout the course of the streak. 

30+ points: 16 games
40+ points: 6 games
50+ points: 2 games

Oh, and those 50-pieces came on back-to-back nights, which is something nobody in the NBA had done since Kobe Bryant in 2007. 

All-day Sunday, you'll be able to re-live the best games from Beal's streak on NBC Sports Washington. Here's a look at what you can expect. 

When: Sunday, April 5, 9:00 a.m.

Where:

  • NBC Sports Washington (channel finder
  • Any of our 24/7 authenticated streaming platforms

9 am -- Pistons @ Wizards from January 20, 2020: Beal starts off his streak by scoring 29 points in a much-needed win over the Pistons. This game also featured Beal crossing center Andre Drummond out of his shoes. 

11:30 am -- Wizards @ Hawks from January 26, 2020: In a trying day for the entire basketball world, Bradley Beal scored 40 points just hours after Kobe Bryant passed away in a helicopter crash. 

2 pm -- Mavericks @ Wizards from February 7, 2020: Beal scores 29 and hits the game-winning layup off a perfectly executed pass from Troy Brown Jr. 

4:30 pm -- Wizards @ Bulls from February 23, 2020: Setting a new career-high with 53 points, it's hard to look at Beal as a reason the Wizards lost this one. 

8 pm -- Bucks @ Wizards from February 24, 2020: One night later, Beal sets a career-high again by scoring 55 points in what he described was the most fun game he'd ever played in. 

11:30 pm -- Nets @ Wizards from February 26, 2020: Beal gets the Wizards back on track following a three-game losing streak post All-Star break with a 30-point night against the Nets at home. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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Isaiah Thomas details Celtics' failed attempt at their own 'Funeral Game'

Isaiah Thomas details Celtics' failed attempt at their own 'Funeral Game'

Everyone has their own opinion of where and when the Wizards' bitter rivalry with the Celtics in 2016-17 all began.

You could point to Jae Crowder booping John Wall's nose, or Wall's confrontation with Marcus Smart, or even Crowder's history with ex-Wizards coach Randy Whitman. But the real start, the culmination of all those isolated events came on January 24, 2017. The Funeral Game.

It was a statement win for the Wizards. They buried Boston 123-108 and left a sour taste in the mouths of Celtics players like Isaiah Thomas, who joined Chris Miller on the Wizards Talk Podcast to talk about his team's own attempt at a Funeral Game and how intense the Celtics-Wizards rivalry really was. 

Thomas' Celtics went back and forth with the Wizards in the second round of the playoffs. The home team won each of the first five games heading into Game 6, and the two-time All-Star wanted to add another level of intrigue to the closeout game. 

"I send a text out to everybody before we leave Boston," Thomas said. "Everybody wear black because we're going to a funeral and we're gonna end it [in Washington].

"Nobody knew but the players," he said. "So then everyone wore black and when everybody walked in, people started to talk. Then when we ended up losing and John hitting the game-winner and him doing the interview after he's like, 'Don't ever wear black in my city.' I'm like [busts out laughing]."

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW

Game 6 was an instant classic. The Celtics played well enough to win the game, Thomas was excellent down the stretch and Beal kept the Wizards in it by scoring 33 points. Everything came down to the Wizards' final possession and Wall delivered with a game-winning three to send the series to a seventh game. 

Boston ended up winning the series so Thomas can look back on everything fondly, but there's no denying how intense the rivalry really was. In a season that featured Kevin Durant's first with the Warriors and Russell Westbrook's triple-double tour, the Wizards and Celtics took center stage whenever they crossed paths on the floor. 

It got so heated that according to Thomas, his friendship with a couple of Wizards players took a considerable hit during the playoffs. 

"John's one of my close friends, like, I didn't even talk to John in the series," he said. "Markieff [Morris] is one of my close friends too from when we played on Phoenix and during that series, I didn't think we would ever talk again with how crazy it got."

We're about three years removed from that fateful series, with Wall, Beal and Ian Mahinmi as the only remaining Wizards from that season. In Boston, it's only Smart and Jaylen Brown. Thomas even played for the Wizards this season after stops with the Cavaliers, Lakers and Nuggets. 

In today's NBA, rivalries fade as fast as they develop, which makes feuds like the Wizards and Celtics that much more enjoyable when taking a trip down memory lane. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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