In a powerful performance that opened the Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the 38-year-old singing superstar paid tribute to her longtime friend Kobe while wearing a gold pantsuit and purple jewelry to honor his Los Angeles Lakers colors. The star also painted her nails purple for the event.
Beyonce, who was introduced as a close friend of the Bryant family, started “XO” with a choir and orchestra performing with her, then stopped and told the crowd she wanted to start over with everyone singing with her.
“I’m here because I love Kobe and this was one of his favorite songs,” she said.
The former Lakers star’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, was shown wiping away tears as Beyonce sang.
Beyonce was the first of many surprise performers and speakers at the star-studded Celebration of Life on February 24 at the Staples Center, where Kobe played his entire 20-year NBA career. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, college basketball star Sabrina Ionescu, and Vanessa Bryant — Kobe’s wife of 19 years — also spoke at the memorial.
Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Payton Chester, 13; Sarah Chester, 45; Christina Mauser, 38; and the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50, also died in the horrific helicopter crash on January 26 and were honored at the memorial celebration.
Beyonce and her husband, Jay-Z, were regulars at Lakers games. Following Kobe’s sudden death, the Grammy winner shared a series of images of the Lakers icon on Instagram, promising to pray for his wife and daughters Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.
“I will continue to diligently pray for your Queens,” she wrote in the caption of one of the photos, per Billboard. “You are deeply missed beloved Kobe.”
Beyonce also shared photos of Gianna Bryant on her social media page.
The singer had a long friendship with the NBA legend. Kobe even appeared in the music video for the 1999 Destiny’s Child song “Bug A Boo.”
Jay-Z talked about the couple’s friendship with Kobe at his Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter Lecture Series at Columbia University in New York, according to ET Online. The rapper revealed that he spent New Year’s Eve with the late athlete, adding and that he and Beyonce were having a hard time coping with his death.
“That’s really a tough one and my wife and I took that, are taking that, really tough,” he said. “That’s all I’ll say on that. Just a great human being that was in a great space in his life.”