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Kobe Bryant tributes: Jimmy Fallon, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Kimmel fight back tears

Talk show hosts and TV personalities pay tribute to Kobe Bryant
On Jan. 27, talk show hosts and TV personalities paid tribute to Kobe Bryant following news of the NBA legend’s passing.

Many talk show hosts held back tears as they paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant this week.

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people killed in Sunday’s helicopter crash.

Tributes pour in for Kobe Bryant amid chopper crash investigation
Tributes pour in for Kobe Bryant amid chopper crash investigation

Jimmy Kimmel dedicated his entire 40-minute show on Monday night to Bryant, who appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 15 times over the past decade and a half.

READ MORE: Who is Vanessa Bryant? A timeline of her relationship with Kobe

“Tonight’s show is going to be different from our usual show,” Kimmel said, while standing on a dark stage. “We don’t have a studio audience here tonight because going forward with a comedy show didn’t feel right considering what happened yesterday. So I’d like to just speak to you directly.”

“That was a punch in the gut for many of us. Kobe was just the last person you could ever imagine something like this happening to. He was so strong and handsome and smart and energetic,” Kimmel said.

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“He was a hero.”

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Kimmel said that while “almost everything is more important than basketball,” Bryant “was a hero in the way Superman is a hero … a real-life superhero, with a costume and everything, walking among us.”

“He always showed up to save the day. He wanted to save the day. He had a force of will. He never gave up.”

Kimmel said that “we also loved him because he was ours. We watched him grow up here. He came to L.A. when he was a teenager and unlike almost every other superstar athlete, he never left.”

“I had many conversations with Kobe off of television and they always involved his daughters. Always,” Kimmel said. “Once he retired from basketball, his life revolved around their lives. He was very proud of them. He loved being a father.”

Kimmel said that when his son had heart surgery, Bryant “checked in on me repeatedly.”

Jimmy Kimmel brings son on show, pleads for health care
Jimmy Kimmel brings son on show, pleads for health care

The late-night host said that he knew Bryant “wasn’t a perfect person. I understand that.”

“My intention is not to canonize him. Or to make judgments about things I don’t know anything about. But I will say, he loved his family, he worked very hard and he brought a lot of joy to a lot of people in the city. And we’re going to miss him,” Kimmel said.

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READ MORE: These are the other 8 victims who died in the Kobe Bryant crash

Kimmel mentioned the other victims in the helicopter crash asking his viewers to continue to pray for them and the rest of Bryant’s family.

“There’s no silver lining here. It’s all bad. It’s all sad.” Kimmel added as he was about to cry, “He was a bright light. And that’s how I want to remember him.”

The rest of Kimmel’s show was dedicated to the interviews Bryant had done on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

On The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon remembered how he first met Bryant when he was 17 years old on the Lakers, drafted right out of high school.

Fallon said he was just 21 years old at the time and he met Bryant at a party, where they ended up doing a beer run together to a delivery-only store.

When the clerk refused to serve them because they were delivery-only, Fallon said Bryant took out his I.D. and placed it on the window.

“He takes out his I.D., puts it on the glass and goes, ‘I’m a Laker.’ And the guy opened the door and we walked out with five cases of beer and we saved the party,” Fallon said.

“Kobe went on to become a legend. Five NBA titles, two Olympic gold medals, 18 all-star appearances … one of the most brilliant and respected players in NBA history,” Fallon said.

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Kobe Bryant death: Video purports to show helicopter in moments before deadly crash
Kobe Bryant death: Video purports to show helicopter in moments before deadly crash

“When we’d run into each other over the years, we’d laugh about the night that we first met,” Fallon tearfully said. “We’d laugh at all the good things that happened since, and we’d laugh at how much fun it was to raise kids and all the stupid mistakes we made trying to figure out how to be good dads. Kobe had four daughters and I had two daughters, and today he and one of his girls are gone.”

“I think I knew Kobe enough to know he rose to any challenge by digging deeper and getting back to work, so let’s honour Kobe, Gianna and the other lives that were lost yesterday by following his example.”

“Love your family, love your teammates, and outwork everyone else in the gym,” Fallon added. “To Vanessa (Bryant) and all those affected by this tragedy, we love you and we will always be there for all of you, and Kobe, when we meet again, we’re going on a beer run.”

READ MORE: Gianna (Gigi) Bryant: The 13-year-old loved basketball as much as her dad

Ellen DeGeneres urged her fans to “celebrate life” after the passing of Bryant.

She began her Tuesday episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show with an emotional monologue.

“Today is Monday. Yesterday was Sunday and it happened to be my birthday and the Grammy Awards. I was nominated. I didn’t win. Not the point,” DeGeneres said as she teared up. “Yesterday was a celebratory day and we got tragic news about Kobe Bryant and everything changed in a second.”

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“That’s what I want to talk about: life is short and it’s fragile. And we don’t know how many birthdays we have,” she said. “We don’t have to have a birthday to celebrate. Just celebrate life.”

Kobe Bryant death: Impromptu vigil as fans gather outside Staples Center in Los Angeles
Kobe Bryant death: Impromptu vigil as fans gather outside Staples Center in Los Angeles

“If you haven’t told someone you love them, do it now. Tell people you love them. Call your friends. Text your friends. Hug them. Kiss them,” the 62-year-old comedian said.

DeGeneres also posted a tribute to Bryant on Twitter on Sunday.

“Like everyone, I’m stunned and saddened by the news about Kobe Bryant. My heart is broken for his wife and family,” she wrote.

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READ MORE: Kobe Bryant fans flock to vigils held for basketball star

Bryant, who retired in 2016, died after the helicopter went down in Calabasas, Calif., just before 10 a.m. local time, according to U.S. media reports. All nine on board, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died.

The wreckage was found on a hillside in Calabasas. The helicopter went down in hilly terrain amid foggy conditions, according to both Reuters and The Associated Press.

He shared four children with wife Vanessa Bryant, including Natalia, 17, Bianca, 3, and seven-month-old Capri.

— With files from The Associated Press