Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash earlier in the day was acknowledged in the opening minutes of the Grammys broadcast. (AP Photo)
From the red carpet to the main stage, sadness loomed over music’s biggest night Sunday at the arena in downtown Los Angeles where Kobe Bryant played for 20 years for the city’s NBA team.
Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash earlier in the day was acknowledged in the opening minutes of the Grammys broadcast. Before her performance, Lizzo said, “This is for Kobe.” She went on to perform “Truth Hurts” and “Cuz I Love You.”
Host Alicia Keys said she was feeling “crazy sad” about Bryant. She was joined on stage with Boyz II Men, who collectively sang “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
“The whole wide world lost a hero,” the singer said in front of the audience. “We are standing her literally heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others were killed in the crash on a steep hillside in dense morning fog in Southern California. He was 41 and had retired from the Lakers in 2016.
Some shed tears for Bryant on the red carpet. Others were almost speechless ahead of the 62nd annual awards show.
Music artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rick Ross and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star and five-time champion. Debbie Allen, who is married to former Laker Norm Nixon, was seen crying.
DJ Khaled, who will take part in a tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle, said the tribute will also pay homage to Bryant and his daughter.
“The news is devastating,” said Khaled, who is expected to take the stage with John Legend, Meek Mill and Kirk Franklin. “We will be paying homage to not only Nipsey but also Kobe and Gianna. It’s hard for me to talk a right.”
Ross remembered a brief conversation he had with Bryant that involved him admiring the NBA star’s craft. The rapper said the game would miss him.
“It’s just a huge loss to the game,” Ross said on the red carpet. “He was a great example on a lot of different stages.”
Singer Charlie Wilson called Bryant a “beautiful soul” and “one of the greatest who played the game.”
Hit-Boy, who won a Grammy with Hussle and Roddy Ricch for best rap performance for “Racks in the Middle,” said he was not going to attend the awards when he learned about Bryant’s death. But the producer said he decided to stick it out in deference to several relatives who were joining him.
“I was two seconds away from just canceling everything,” Hit-Boy said.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who knew Bryant personally, said he felt horrible but also learned a lesson.
“I hope everyone. ... gives their loved ones a hug and a kiss,” Kraft said. “Don’t take anything for granted. We should pinch ourselves and make sure we remember those we care most about.”
Outside Staples Center, fans wearing Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys flocked to the arena to show their respect for the Laker legend. A few hundred people gathered at L.A. Live in front of a mega screen with a smiling Bryant that read, “In Loving Memory of KOBE BRYANT 1978-2020”
Smokey Robinson choked up on camera as he spoke of Bryant, whom he called a friend.
“As a dad myself, to think that his daughter was there with him and there was nothing he could do for her,” he said. “My god.”