The city of Los Angeles is to host a public memorial at the Staples Center for Lakers icon Kobe Bryant in just over two weeks time.
Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people died when a twin-engine Sikorsky S-76B helicopter slammed into a hillside outside Los Angeles in heavy fog on January 26.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had hinted last week that a memorial was in the works.
The event will be held on Monday February 24th – almost one month since the tragic accident and will cap off weeks of tributes that have occurred across the city.
The date 2/24 is itself a touching tribute and corresponds with the No. 24 jersey he wore and the No. 2 worn by his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
The Staples Center and the surrounding LA Live leisure complex has become something of a focal point for those wanting to pay their respects and mourn the basketball legend.
The memorial kept growing for a week. Personal messages were written on many of the items.
The cleanup of flowers, balloons, jerseys, stuffed toys and basketballs began at 4am on Thursday. A fence was erected around the site to keep the cleanup out of public view.
Fans have also made their way to Calabasas and trekked up into the hills close to the crash site to leave flowers and photos.
On Friday before a game against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers put on an emotional tribute at Staples Center led by LeBron James.
In just four minutes, LeBron’s speech captured the melancholy mood of a city while suggesting it’s both possible and necessary to move on after unthinkable tragedy.
‘As I look around this arena, we´re all grieving,’ James said. ‘We´re all hurt. We´re all heartbroken. But when we´re going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family.’
Just six days earlier, James passed Bryant for third place on the NBA’s career scoring list.
He spoke at length after that game in Philadelphia about Bryant’s influence on his game and his approach to life, praising Kobe for his everything from his superlative skills to his desire to be a strong father to his four daughters.
Bryant and James spoke by phone early that morning – as it turned out, only several hours before Bryant died.
‘I know at some point, we will have a memorial for Kobe,’ James told Staples Center. ‘But I look at this as a celebration tonight. This is a celebration of the 20 years. Of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body, the getting up, the sitting down, the everything. The countless hours, the determination to be as great as he could be. Tonight, we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we’ve seen over the past three years, man. Tonight is a celebration.’