How Talk Show Hosts Paid Tribute To Kobe Bryant

L.A. Lakers fans and Kobe Bryant's loved ones were devastated when the athlete and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna "Gigi" Bryant, died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020 alongside seven other people. Among the mourners was Kobe's long list of celebrity friends and former teammates, including Shaquille "Shaq" O'Neal, who broke down in tears when discussing his friend's death. "I haven't felt a pain that sharp in a while," the basketball star said during a tribute to Kobe days after the accident. "...The fact that we are not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony; the fact that we are not going to be able to say, 'Ha, I got five. You got four [championships].' ... those are the things you can't get back."

Of course, O'Neal isn't the only high-profile person to feel the loss of Kobe on a deep level. From Jimmy Kimmel Live! host Jimmy Kimmel to The Ellen Show's Ellen DeGeneres, the dad-of-four was memorialized by countless TV stars who loved him dearly.

Jimmy Kimmel recalled Kobe Bryant's kindness

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel had Kobe Bryant as a guest on his show 15 times, and the two had become friends. A teary-eyed Kimmel made it a point to describe what Kobe was like off-camera, telling viewers on Jan. 28, 2020: "I had many conversations with Kobe off of television and they always involved his daughters. Always. Once he retired from basketball, his life revolved around their lives. He was very proud of them. He loved being a father." The New York native also revealed that after his infant son, Billy, had heart surgery, Bryant would frequently check in to see how the boy was doing. 

Kimmel was so distraught about the tragic news, that he chose not to have a live studio audience when paying tribute to the late athlete because it didn't feel "right." He ended his segment by recognizing that Kobe might not have been "perfect," but that he only knew the star as a "bright light." 

Jimmy Fallon shared a personal anecdote about Kobe Bryant

Unlike Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon delivered his homage to Kobe Bryant in front of a live audience, but that didn't mean Fallon was any less emotional over the incident. He could barely hold back his tears during his Jan. 27, 2020 segment and was caught frequently wiping his eyes. The late-night host's friendship with Bryant goes back years. They first met at a party in Los Angeles when Fallon was 21 and Bryant was a 17-year-old rookie in the NBA. Fallon recalled a hilarious moment from that night. 

The two went on a beer run at the request of the party's host, only to find the liquor store they went to was delivery-only. Kobe saved the day when he showed the store's employee his I.D. and simply said, "I'm a Laker." The pair walked away with five cases of cold ones. "When we'd run into each other over the years we'd laugh about that night that we first met," Fallon said, as he wrestled with his emotions. "We'd laugh about how much fun it is to raise kids and all the stupid mistakes we made trying to figure out how to be good dads."

Fallon ended his speech on a poignant and heartbreaking note: "Kobe, when we meet again we're going on a beer run."

Kobe Bryant's death sparked Ellen DeGeneres to reflect on life

The horrific helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna, and seven others occurred on Ellen DeGeneres' 62nd birthday. The talk show host aired her tribute to the basketball star the following day. DeGeneres, who had Kobe on her show numerous times, said his death "changed everything in a second" and made her realize you don't need a birthday to "celebrate life." Clearly emotional, DeGeneres implored people to reflect on their behavior in light of the tragic crash, stating, "If you haven't told someone you love 'em, do it now ... And be nice to people at the DMV. They're people, too."

In another segment, DeGeneres shared old clips of Kobe's heartwarming appearances on the show. "Our hearts go out to Kobe's family and all the families who lost loved ones on Sunday," she said in closing. "Be kind to one another."

Kobe Bryant's death hit Stephen Colbert hard

Stephen Colbert never had Kobe Bryant on The Colbert Report or The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, although he admitted the athlete's death brought up tough memories. "I never got a chance to meet (Bryant), but I do feel a strange connection in this moment," the comedian said on Jan. 28, 2020, likely in reference to losing his dad and brothers in a 1974 plane crash. "One that I wouldn't wish on anybody. A strange connection to his family, and his friends, and those who loved him, and those who have gone through this particular tragedy." 

Colbert was 10 years old when his family members were killed in the plane crash, so he certainly understands what it's like to grieve a parent and sibling at a young age. "For years, I sort of thought that was my secret name ... that loss was my name," he told Oprah Winfrey on Oprah's Next Chapter. "I like the idea that you have a secret name. You have your name but then you have a secret name, and that's a name that no one can ever really pronounce because that's who you are. And there's a magic to your secret name. And that was my secret name, the loss of my father and my brothers."