Talk show hosts honored Kobe Bryant with heartfelt and tearful tributes during episodes that taped on Monday, one day after the NBA legend, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others were killed in a fatal helicopter crash on Sunday.
Jimmy Kimmel decided not to tape his Monday night show in front of a studio audience "because going forward with a comedy show didn't feel right, considering what happened yesterday."
The late-night host called Bryant's tragic death at the age of 41 "a punch in the gut."
"[Kobe] was the last person you could ever imagine something like this happening to. He was so strong and so handsome and smart and energetic. He was a hero," Kimmel said. "And when I say that I don't mean a hero like real heros like firefighters or doctors and nurses who actually save lives. I don't mean to compare what he did for a living to what they do… but Kobe was a hero in the way Superman was a hero. He was so big it was almost like he was a fictional character. He was a real-life superhero with a costume and everything walking among us."
"Those of us who love the Lakers know that it seemed like he always came through," he added. "He always shows up to save the day; he wanted to save the day; he had a force of will; he never gave up."
Kimmel went on to dedicate all of Monday night's episode to Bryant, looking back at some highlights from Bryant's 15 appearances on his Los Angeles-based talk show.
The other prominent LA-based late-night host, James Corden, opened "The Late Late Show" with a heartfelt tribute to Bryant, as well, calling Sunday's tragedy "so unspeakably sad."
"There are some athletes that transcend their sports before you ever even get a chance to see them play, and Kobe Bryant was one of those athletes," he said. "He really, really was."
"Our hearts break at this tragedy. Our thoughts and our love go out to Kobe's wife, and to his children, his family and friends. We mourn the other seven people on that helicopter, whose loss is no less profound, and our hearts go out to their friends and their families too," Corden added. "I wish I could say something to make sense of it all, but I can't find the words. All I can say is this: If you can, take a moment, tonight or tomorrow, to call up someone you love and just let them know."
Jimmy Fallon delivered a tearful tribute to Bryant on "The Tonight Show,"
"Kobe was such a life force, so strong and creative and inspired, that in my head I thought he was going to live forever," Fallon said. "I met Kobe when he was 17 and I was 21. He was a rookie on the Lakers, and I was just starting out in the comedy scene in L.A. and we were at a party and we didn't know anyone at the party so we just started talking. [...] We got along, and hit it off."
Fallon went on to tell the story of going on a beer run with Bryant during the party before recalling his future run-ins with the NBA legend.
"When we'd run into each other over the years, we'd laugh about that night that we first met," Fallon went on, getting visibly choked up. "We'd laugh about all the good things that had happened since. And we'd laugh about how much fun it was to raise kids and all the stupid mistakes we made trying to figure out how to be good dads. Kobe had four daughters and I had two daughters, and today he and one of his girls are gone."
"I think I knew Kobe well enough to know he rose to any challenge by digging deeper and getting back to work, so let's honor Kobe, Gianna and the other lives that were lost yesterday by following his example. Love your family, love your teammates, and outwork everyone else in the gym," Fallon continued. "To Vanessa and all those affected by this tragedy, we love you and we will always be there for all of you," Fallon concluded. "And Kobe, when we meet again, we're going on a beer run."
Ellen DeGeneres also fought through tears while honoring Kobe Bryant on her show, explaining that her tribute would air on Tuesday, because Monday's episode had been taped before Sunday's tragedy.
The host explained that it was her birthday on Sunday, the day Bryant died, which was also the same day at the 2020 Grammy Awards: "Yesterday was supposed to be a celebratory day and then we got tragic news about Kobe Bryant and everything changed in a second."
"Life is short and it's fragile and we don't know how many birthdays we have. We don't have to have a birthday to celebrate, just celebrate life," she says. "And if you haven't told someone you love them, do it now. Tell people you love them. Call your friends, text your friends, hug them, kiss them. Be nice to the people at the DMV. They're people, be nice to them."