Kobe and Gianna Bryant Mourned by Los Angeles in Star-Filled Tribute

LOS ANGELES — The echoing chants, the “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!” serenade that so often filled Staples Center, had faded, at least for a little while, by the time Vanessa Bryant approached the lectern on Monday morning.

She had not spoken publicly since the helicopter crash 29 days earlier that claimed the lives of her husband, Kobe Bryant, their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people. Now, at the center of that most public of places, one heralded as “The House That Kobe Built,” she stood alone as a eulogist.

“God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other,” Vanessa Bryant said, a tissue crumpled in her right hand. “He had to bring them home to heaven together.”

It was but one agonizing moment as thousands of people — fans, famous athletes, celebrities — gathered around Bryant’s old home court to formally grieve the global superstar. Nearly a month after the crash that reverberated across the country, the two-hour tribute was a renewed showcase of Bryant’s stature and the shock that surrounded his death.

Michael Jordan spoke as tears glistened on both of his cheeks and a somber arena fell silent. Beyoncé sang, and Alicia Keys played Beethoven. Sabrina Ionescu, the Oregon star, celebrated Bryant’s passion for basketball, which he had plainly nourished in Gianna, a budding star in her own right known to all as Gigi. Jimmy Kimmel, the late-night host who at times appeared stricken as he presided over the service, talked about how “everywhere you go, you see his face, his name, Gigi’s face, Gigi’s number.”

Indeed, as much as it was a wrenching remembrance of how Kobe Bryant’s athletic grit and grace dominated Los Angeles’ sports landscape for two decades, the event was also a grand stage for the girl whose mother saw her as destined for the W.N.B.A., and for women’s basketball more broadly.

“Kobe and Gigi are the heart of Los Angeles,” Diana Taurasi, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, said in Spanish at the close of her eulogy. “Los Angeles never dies.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading an inquiry into the Jan. 26 crash, which happened on a foggy morning northwest of the city. Although the federal investigation could take more than a year to complete, many factors, including weather, are being considered as possible contributors to the crash.

But the circumstances of the Bryants’ deaths drew just fleeting mentions on Monday. With the crowd inside Staples Center limited to invited guests and the small number of people who were able to purchase tickets, gatherings and tributes dotted Southern California as mourners convened around planned and spontaneous viewing events.

Hundreds of people watched on a soccer field in Irvine, just as dozens of people did inside City Hall in Santa Ana. In Fullerton, fans in Bryant jerseys watched the service at a Mexican restaurant where Kobe Bryant had favored a tostada with carne asada and a carnitas plate.

In the heart of Los Angeles, fans who had come from around the country and were resplendent in the gold and purple of the Lakers tried, often in vain, to find tickets.

“Kobe was in my life for 20 years. I watched him get drafted, play, retire,” said Brandy Richter, who flew from Seattle to Los Angeles just to be near the service and who had dressed her daughter in a gold tutu and purple leggings.

Those in the arena, often hushed and serene on Monday hours before the Clippers hosted the Memphis Grizzlies, or those watching the service on television, saw a thoughtfully constructed lineup of stars who veered between sharing memories of big-time sports and more intimate moments.

“This is a sad day,” Kimmel said, “but it is also a celebration of life, of their lives and of life itself in a building where those of us who are Lakers fans and Kobe fans celebrated so many of the best times of our lives.”

When they gathered this time, it was on a date — 2-24-20 — replete with symbols: Gianna wore No. 2, Kobe wore No. 24, he played for Los Angeles for 20 seasons, and he and Vanessa Bryant were a couple for 20 years.

Vanessa Bryant first memorialized her daughter as a spunky, rhythmic, sweet-spirited teenager.

“Gigi was very competitive like her daddy, but Gianna had a sweet grace about her,” she said. “Her smile was like sunshine. Her smile took up her entire face.”

And while she certainly recalled her daughter’s basketball exploits — she had her eye on playing for Connecticut, long a powerhouse in the women’s game — she also remembered her daughter as a baking aficionado, a talented dancer and a maker of handmade cards.

“I miss you — all of you — every day,” she said. “I love you.”

Only then did Vanessa Bryant turn her focus toward the memory of “my everything,” the man she had dated since she was 17.

“He was charismatic, a gentleman,” she said. “He was loving, adoring and romantic.”

He was, she recalled, “the M.V.P. of girl dads,” a doting father who liked car pools and bath times and had already been plotting with his wife to be “fun grandparents” someday.

“He isn’t going to be able to walk our girls down the aisle or spin me around on the dance floor while singing ‘P.Y.T.’ to me,” Vanessa Bryant said. “But I want my daughters to know and remember the amazing person, husband and father he was, the kind of man that wanted to teach the future generations to be better and keep from making his own mistakes.”

Her voice grew its most strained near the end.

“Babe, you take care of our Gigi,” she instructed her husband.

A few moments later, she added, “May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day.”

At moments on Monday, but especially during Vanessa Bryant’s eulogy, sports seemed secondary. But there were tributes, of course, to Kobe Bryant’s basketball might: the five N.B.A. championships, the 81-point game, the deftness and grit of the kid who was drafted right out of his Philadelphia-area high school and who became the hardwood heir to — and texting buddies with — Jordan, the finest player of an earlier generation.

“He wanted to be the best basketball player that he could be,” Jordan said.

Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant’s longtime teammate in Los Angeles, recalled how Bryant would say others were playing checkers while he played chess.

“And I would say ‘O.K., I guess, Kobe. I don’t know how to play chess,’” said O’Neal, who sometimes feuded with Bryant during their careers.

In recent years, though, Bryant sought the counsel of others as Gianna developed her own talents as a player. (When the crash happened, the two were traveling to a tournament game in which Kobe was to coach while Gianna played.)

Ionescu talked about how, in some respects, Kobe Bryant had already practiced coaching by mentoring other players, including herself.

“He was giving me the blueprint,” Ionescu said. “He was giving Gigi the same blueprint.”

But with those plans extinguished, Los Angeles on Monday saw the culmination of a month of public grief — even as the city and its heroes recognized that closure, however it comes, might be distant.

“You said yourself that everything negative — pressure, challenges — is all an opportunity for me to rise,” O’Neal said as he addressed Kobe Bryant. “So we now take that sage advice to now rise from anguish and begin with the healing.”

Scott Cacciola and Tim Arango reported from Los Angeles, and Alan Blinder from Atlanta. Reporting was contributed by Jill Cowan, Miriam Jordan and Louis Keene from Los Angeles; Sopan Deb from New York; Jill Painter Lopez from Fullerton, Calif.; and Marc Stein from Dallas.