As Lizzo kicked off the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night in Los Angeles’ Staples Center, she called out to Kobe Bryant. It was in that very venue that Bryant became a star playing for the Lakers; fans had already gathered to mourn him there hours before the music awards show began. So before she belted out the first words of her hit song “Cuz I Love You,” Lizzo called out, “This is for Kobe!”
Alicia Keys, the emcee for the night, took the stage after Lizzo wrapped up. “We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” she said. “Because earlier today, Los Angeles, America, and a whole wide world lost a hero. And we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were two of nine people who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas on Sunday morning. Bryant’s legacy, both in the city that made him famous and in the world of basketball more broadly, is undeniable, as is the tragedy of the accident. But for some, his sudden death might elicit more conflicted emotions. In 2003, a young woman accused Bryant of rape; the charge was eventually dismissed, and Bryant settled the civil case out of court.
As the early tributes poured in and the city of Los Angeles began to process the sudden deaths, Keys and others kept the focus on mourning.
“Right now, Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, and all those who have been tragically lost today are in our spirits and in our hearts, our prayers; they’re in this building,” Keys continued. “And I’d like everyone to take a moment and hold them inside of you...We never imagined in a million years we’d have to start the show like this.” And then, joined by Boyz II Men, she began to sing “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”