Jimmy Kimmel breaks down in tears during Kobe and Gianna Bryant memorial

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s opening remarks at the public memorial service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant had the late-night talk show and the audience in tears.

Taking the mic after Beyoncé performed both “XO” — which she said was one of Bryant’s favorite songs — and “Halo,” Kimmel was, of course, much more somber than he is each evening on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and perhaps more so than we’ve ever heard him. He had to stop speaking to steady his voice a few times.

“This is a sad day, but it is also a celebration of life, of their lives, and of life itself in the building where those of us who are Lakers fans and Kobe fans celebrated so many of the best times of our lives,” Kimmel told the crowd gathered at Staples Center in Los Angeles. “I don’t think any of us could have imagined this.”

“Everywhere you go,” Kimmel said, “you see his face, his number, Gigi’s face, Gigi’s number… everywhere, at every intersection. There are hundreds of murals painted by artists who are inspired, not because he is a basketball player, but because Kobe was an artist, too.”

“In places that he would be booed on the court, Kobe is missed,” Kimmel said.

He noted that Bill Russell, a legendary player for the Lakers’ rivals, the Boston Celtics, wore a Bryant jersey on Sunday, as the Celtics played the Lakers for the first time since the tragedy.

Then, Kimmel made his first joke: “I knew he would come to us eventually.”

He said that he’d been trying to come up with something positive that had come out of the deaths, but it’s been hard.

“The best thing I think I was able to come up with is this: gratitude,” Kimmel said. “It seems to me all we can do is be grateful for the time we had with them and for the time we have left with each other and that’s all.”

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