Moments after Lizzo opened this evening’s show, announcing “Tonight is for Kobe” before performing her hits Cuz I Love You and Truth Hurts, host Alicia Keys took the stage.
“Here we are together on Music’s Biggest Night,” Keys said somberly. “But to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sad right now because earlier today, Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero, and we’re literally standing in here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
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“Right now Kobe and his daughter Gianna, and all of those that have been tragically lost today are in our spirits. They’re in our hearts. They’re in our prayers. They’re in this building,” Keys continued. “I would like to ask everybody to take a moment and just hold them inside of you… and share our strength and our support with their families. We never imagined in a million years we’d have to start the show like this. Never, never, never, never. So we wanted to do something that would describe, just a tiny bit, how we all feel right now.”
Keys then began to sing an a capella version of the Boyz II Men single “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday,” and was joined by the legendary R&B group.
At the end of the song, Keys said, “We love you Kobe.”
Bryant’s two jerseys, number 8 and number 24, were illuminated near the ceiling of the Staples Center.
Organizers told Deadline just before they show that they felt a tribute was the right thing to do, considering Bryant was beloved in Los Angeles, and played for years with the Lakers at Staples.
As musicians and performers arrived at the facility throughout the day, they passed hundreds of basketball fans who gathered outside pay their respects to the five-time NBA champion.
Grief-stricken fans wore Bryant’s jersey, carried flowers and bowed their heads. His picture loomed over the crowd on the Jumbotron screen outside Staples.
Just before the Grammys telecast began, executive producer Ken Ehrlich, in his 40th and final turn, addressed attendees and opened with a reference to Bryant’s death, explaining that there would be a tribute after the show began.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others lost their lives in the helicopter crash that occurred just before 10 a.m. on a hillside above Calabasas.
During an afternoon news conference, Los Angeles County officials said they believed a total of nine people were on board the aircraft when it crashed and sparked a brush fire. There were no survivors.
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