Jimmy Kimmel dedicated his entire show to the man he called a “superhero.”
The hosts of late night TV paid tribute to Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday with an outpouring of grief and heartfelt remembrances.
Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon and James Cordon led an emotional night as they honored the NBA legend who often stopped by the programs to chat with the hosts, showcasing his charisma, wit and “bright light.”
Keep reading below to see how each show honored the “superhero” and all the families involved.
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Jimmy Kimmel considered Kobe a close friend and welcomed the LA Lakers superstar to his program 15 times. He dedicated his entire show to him, eschewing a studio audience because “going forward with a comedy show didn’t feel right considering what happened yesterday.”
“Kobe was — and I know this might not make sense – but he was just the last person you could have ever imagined something like this happening to,” Kimmel began. “He was so strong — and handsome — and smart — and energetic — he was a hero.”
“And when I say that, I don’t mean a hero like real heroes — like firefighters, or doctors and nurses — who actually save lives,” Kimmel continued. “I don’t mean to compare what he did for a living to what they do. I know there are more important things than basketball. Almost everything is more important.”
“But Kobe was a hero in the way Superman is a hero,” the comedian explained. “He was so big and full of life, it was almost like he was a fictional character. A real-life superhero — with a costume and everything — walking amongst us.”
Describing how Kobe’s undeniable love for his four daughters influenced his empathy as a parent, Kimmel recalled Kobe’s reaction to Kimmel’s son, William, needing emergency surgery back in 2017.
“When my son had heart surgery, he checked in with me repeatedly,” Kimmel detailed. “He made a point once Billy, my son, was out of the hospital to meet him – and from time to time he would check in to see how he was doing.”
Kimmel went on to say the tragedy was a terrible loss for the Lakers and its community.
“It’s all bad. It’s all sad,” Kimmel said in conclusion. “He was a bright light, and that’s how I want to remember him.”
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
Jimmy Fallon held back tears at one point as he remembered his pal Kobe, whom he met at a party in Los Angeles when he was 21 and the fledgling basketball star was only 17.
“He was a rookie on the Lakers and I was just starting out in the comedy scene at LA. We were at a party and we didn’t know anyone at the party so we just started talking. I said, like, ‘Hey what do you do?’ He said, ‘I play basketball.’ I go ‘Where,’ and he goes, ‘For the Lakers. I’m a Laker.'”
The funny anecdote was brought up between the two when they would run into each other over the years.
“We’d laugh at all the good things that had happened since,” Fallon explained. “And we’d laugh about how much fun it was to raise kids and all the stupid mistakes we made trying to figure out how to be good dads. And Kobe had four daughters and I had two daughters. And today he and one of his girls are gone.”
“But I think I knew Kobe enough to know that he rose to any challenge by digging deeper and getting back to work. So, let’s honor Kobe, Gianna and the other lives that were lost yesterday by following his example,” he said.
Conan O’Brien wanted to honor the sports hero by focusing on Kobe’s winning personality, which he displayed to great effect when he visited the TBS show.
“Just listening to the coverage, so much is rightly being said about Kobe’s incredible gifts as an athlete and his prowess on the basketball court. But what I wanted to do is just take a moment here at the top of the show to highlight another aspect of Kobe’s talent. He was naturally very funny and charming.”
“A superstar does not have to be a great guest, but he just was.”
Before presenting a throwback interview with Kobe, O’Brien added, “Whenever he was on our show, he was a joy to talk with and he always had the audience in the palm of his hand. That’s the guy that I’ve been thinking about these past 24 hours and it’s that memory that I’d like to share with you tonight.”
The Late Late Show with James Corden
James Cordon spoke about how the public is attempting to come to terms with such a tragedy, as Kobe was beloved around the world, with his talents reaching far beyond the basketball community.
“It didn’t feel real when I heard it and it’s so unspeakably sad. All of it. If you grow up in Britain, basketball is not a massive part of your life. Not many people play basketball in school. NBA games weren’t on television when I was growing up. But there were some athletes that transcend their sport before you even get a chance to see them play and Kobe Bryant was one of those athletes. He really, really was.’
Corden recalled a visit from Kobe to the show soon after he retired his jersey, where the 18-time All-Star was excited about his next stage in life.
“I remember him saying to me, he couldn’t stop talking about how excited he was to have all his free time to devote to his family and coach his daughters. And I remember loving hearing him talk about that, a man who had achieved so much in his life was so excited just to get to be a dad for a while.”
The “Cats” star ended on an uplifting note, saying, “I wish I could say something to make sense of it all and I can’t find the words to say. All I can think of is this — If you can, take a moment tonight, tomorrow, to call up someone you love just to let them know.”