Grammy Awards begin with love letter to late NBA star Kobe Bryant

27 January 2020 - 07:10 By
Alicia Keys paid tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Grammy Awards.
Alicia Keys paid tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Grammy Awards.
Image: AFP

The 2020 Grammy Awards kicked off on Sunday with an emotional tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41, whose death in a helicopter crash that day left fans across the world in tears.

His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also died in the crash. 

Before the star-studded event's top nominee, Lizzo, owned the stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with a show-stopping medley of her top hits, she laid down the evening's overarching theme: “Tonight is for Kobe.” Bryant made history at the Center as a championship-winning Laker.

The twerking flautist then handed the torch to host Alicia Keys, who offered another love letter to Bryant's memory: “We're all feeling crazy sadness right now. Earlier today, Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero.

“And we're literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built,” she said, before launching into a soulful rendition of It's So Hard to Say Goodbye with the group, Boyz II Men.

“He would want us to keep the vibrations high,” Alicia later said, before singing a humorous yet soothing opening monologue at the piano.

A mushrooming crowd of people, many of them tearful, gathered near the arena to mourn 41-year-old Bryant. Flags flew at half-mast.

Lizzo took home the first broadcast award of the night for best pop solo performance, having already won two awards at the pre-gala event.

“This is really ... sick,” the 31-year-old superstar said through tears.

“This whole week I'd be lost in my problems, stressed out – and then in an instant all of that can go away and your priorities really shift,” she said.

“Let's continue to reach out, hold each other down and lift each other up.”

At the pre-gala event, Eilish won for Best Pop Vocal Album and Lil Nas X lassoed two trophies of a potential six.

“I feel like I'm not supposed to be here,” Eilish, 18, wearing Gucci, said on the red carpet after winning her first award of the night.

“Life is weird.”