Jimmy Fallon has become the latest celebrity to speak out on his relationship with Kobe Bryant as the world continues to make sense of the basketball legend's loss.
The "Tonight Show" host dedicated his opening monologue to Bryant, 41, on Monday, a day after he was killed in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others.
“Kobe was such a life force, so strong and creative and inspired that in my head I thought that he would live forever,” Fallon said.
"He was a rookie on the Lakers and I was just starting out on the comedy scene in L.A," he recalled about his first meeting with the future NBA star.
"We were at a party and we didn’t know anyone at the party, so we just started talking. I said, ‘Hey what do you do?’ and he said ‘I play basketball’ and I go ‘Where?’ and he goes ‘For the Lakers.’ I go ‘Wow.”
Fallon tearfully remembered how the two "hit it off" as Bryant, then 17, revealed to the comedian he was into poetry. The two then embarked on a beer run, which was nearly unsuccessful until Bryant told the store owner he was a Laker.
“Kobe went on to become a legend. When we’d run into each other over the years, we’d laugh about the night we first met,” Fallon continued.
"We’d laugh at all the good things that happened since and we’d laugh at how much fun it was to raise kids. Kobe had four daughters and I had two daughters and today he and one of his daughters are gone.”
“Let’s honor Kobe, Gianna and the other lives lost. Love your family, love your teammates and outwork everyone else in the gym. To Vanessa and all those affected by this tragedy, we love you and we’ll always be there for all of you."
"Kobe, when we meet again, we’re going on a beer run," he ended the emotional speech.