A look back: Staples Center transformed to place of mourning following Kobe Bryant's death

A year after losing Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven other Southern California residents, FOX 11 looks back on the day music’s biggest night turned into the epicenter for mourning Los Angeles’ most beloved sports legend at Staples Center. 

Jan. 26, 2021, marks one year since NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash.

On that foggy morning in Los Angeles in 2020, some of the biggest names in music flocked to Staples Center for the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards.

FOX 11’s Rita Garcia was there as the news broke and the world watched. 

She recalls watching it unfold and said the timing of it all was surreal. It was supposed to be a big celebration…everyone was waiting to see who would win record of the year. Instead, Staples Center became the epicenter for mourning LA’s most beloved sports legend. 

Visually, Jan. 26, 2020, looked like an award show. The red carpet was out and media from around the world were to be in place by 11:30 a.m. 

As reporters readied for coverage, by 11:25 a.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department put on a tweet about a chopper crash that had no survivors. 

It read: "Five people confirmed deceased, no survivors in #Calabasas helicopter crash. #LASD #Malibu deputies remain with #LA County fire personnel. Investigation ongoing."

As more details unfolded, investigators discovered there were more victims and the world learned one of the most iconic figures in sports history was gone. 

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were identified as two of the nine passengers killed.

RELATED: News related to the life and death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant

While at Staples Center, "The House that Kobe Built," it was almost show time, and the cream of the music industry began arriving. 

"It was a damper on tonight because of that. We were looking so forward to just celebrating music like we always do and then this happens...and you know, Kobe was my friend," Smokey Robinson told Garcia on the red carpet. 

Former musician Shelia E echoed his sentiments.

"We’re just devasted and everyone is in just disarray," she said. 

Shelia E had been rehearsing for a special tribute to Prince that night. 


• Music stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant at Grammys award show

Fans in Los Angeles gather to remember NBA legend Kobe Bryant

In addition, an all-star performance was planned for Nipsey Hussle and in honor of the artists lost in 2019. However, the news of the deadly helicopter crash was another devastating loss.

However, in Grammys fashion, Kobe’s life was not only remembered, but it was celebrated through music inside Staples Center.

Outside the arena, thousands of fans gathered wearing Kobe’s jersey and carrying flowers. Within minutes, downtown Los Angeles was painted in purple and gold as the night went on, and together, the city stood united as the world mourned the loss of a father, athlete and icon. 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Grammy Awards aren’t set to take place until March 14. Officials say we can expect more tributes for Kobe and Gianna Bryant at Staples Center with limited capacity or no audience. 

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