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Tearful Michael Jordan commemorates ‘little brother’ Kobe Bryant

LOS ANGELES: A tearful Michael Jordan on Monday (Feb 24) commemorated his "little brother" Kobe Bryant at a star-filled memorial in Los Angeles for the basketball great and his daughter Gianna who died with seven others in a helicopter crash last month.

"When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died, and as I look in this arena, across the globe, a piece of you died," the NBA legend said, tears streaming down his face.

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"I promise you, from this day forward, I will live with the memories and knowing that I had a little brother," Jordan, widely regarded as the greatest player in history, added.

"I tried to help in every way I could. Please rest in peace little brother."

The public memorial – dubbed "A Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" – was being held at Staples Center, the arena where Bryant wowed fans for 17 years, known as "the house that Kobe built."

Fans arrive to attend the "Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" service at Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles. AFP/Mark RALSTON

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The 2/24 date carries special significance as it coincides with Bryant's jersey number – "24" – and Gianna's "2" jersey number.

Another basketball great, Shaquille O'Neal, who won three NBA titles with Bryant, also spoke at the ceremony while several music stars, including Beyonce and Alicia Keys, performed.

"I'm here because I love Kobe," said the 70-time Grammy-nominated Beyonce as she launched into one of Bryant's favorite songs "XO," dressed in a golden suit – the colour of the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant's team for two decades.

'HE WAS MY EVERYTHING'

Bryant's widow Vanessa paid a tearful tribute to her late husband and daughter, saying she could not fathom life without them.

Kobe Bryant's wife Vanessa Bryant speaks during the "Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant" service at Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles. AFP/FREDERIC J. BROWN

"God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other," Bryant said in her first public remarks since the Jan 26 crash. "He had to bring them home together."

She spoke of her heartbreak at not being able to watch Gianna, who was 13, grow up and missing important moments of her life.

"I won't be able to tell her how gorgeous she looks on her wedding day," she said through tears, receiving a standing ovation for the tribute.

"I'll never get to see my baby girl walk down the aisle, have a father-daughter dance with her daddy."

A visibly shaken Jimmy Kimmel – the comedian officiated at the ceremony – said he saw Kobe and Gianna's faces and jersey numbers everywhere in Los Angeles and beyond.

"All we can do is to be grateful for the time we had with them," the late night talk show host said.

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