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Late Night Hosts Pay Emotional Tributes to Kobe Bryant

Watch the hosts respond to the tragedy

Amanda Bell

On Monday night, the hosts of late night television joined in on the chorus of tributes for Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Bryant's death, and that of his daughter Gianna and the seven others on board, was a devastating blow to sports fans and the nation as a whole. Since many of the hosts are located in Los Angeles, they were able to share personal stories about their time spent with the NBA star or revisit interview clips in his memory.

Find out how the late night TV hosts honored Kobe Bryant below.

Jimmy Kimmel Live

Jimmy Kimmel was particularly affected by the news and dedicated the entire episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live to honoring the late basketball icon. "This show is going to be different from our usual show. We don't have a studio audience tonight because going forward with a comedy show didn't feel right considering what happened yesterday," he explained in his emotional opening address.

"Kobe was -- and I know this might not make sense -- but he was just the last person you could ever imagine something like this happening to," Kimmel continued. "He was so strong and handsome and smart and energetic, and he was a hero. When I say that I don't mean a hero like real heroes like firefighters and doctors and nurses who actually save lives. ... But Kobe was a hero in the way Superman is a hero. He was so big that it was almost like he was a fictional character. He was a real-life superhero with a costume and everything walking amongst us."

Kobe Bryant Tributes Pour in From Across the Sports World

Kimmel went on to recall his favorite memories of Bryant, like the athlete's studious questions about a book Kimmel had given him. He also revealed that Bryant made sure to check in on Kimmel's then-infant son Billy when he underwent heart surgery. "He was a special person -- a great basketball player for sure, but more than that. He had so many interests outside of sports. He was intensely curious. He would call people he admired to interview them -- business leaders, writers, inventors. He was always learning, always improving, he had a hunger for that," Kimmel remembered. "I know he was not a perfect person, I understand that. My intention is not to canonize him or make judgments about things I don't know anything about, but I will say, he loved his family. He worked very hard, and he brought a lot of joy to a lot of people in this city, and we are going to miss him."

Kimmel went on to replay a few highlights from some of the 15 interviews he conducted with Bryant over the years, starting with their last talk, in which Bryant talked about his love of being a father to his four daughters. The host later encouraged audiences to contribute to the Bryant family's charity foundation.


Conan O'Brien also chose to re-air an interview he'd done with Bryant in the past, saying that while "so much is rightly being said about Kobe's incredible gifts as an athlete and his prowess on the basketball court," he wanted to share his perspective on Bryant as a wonderful guest on Conan.

"I wanted to do is just take a moment here at the top of the show to highlight another aspect of Kobe's talent. He was naturally very funny and charming. He really was -- a terrific guest," O'Brien explained. "You know, a superstar does not have to be a great guest, and he just was. Whenever he was on our show, he was a joy to talk with, and he always had the audience in the palm of his hand. That's the guy that I've been thinking about these past 24 hours, and it's that memory that I would like to share with you tonight."

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon honored Bryant on The Tonight Showby sharing an anecdote about the night they first met, when Bryant was still a 17-year-old newcomer to Los Angeles and Fallon was still moving up in the comedy scene.

Fallon revealed that the two were separately guests at a party and spent some time talking before they were asked to go on a beer run. Upon arriving at a store, they were told that it was a delivery-only location, but when Bryant revealed his identity as a player for the Lakers, the shop owner opened the doors. "We saved the party, and we said goodnight, and Kobe went on to become a legend," Fallon remembered.

"We'd run into each other over the years we'd laugh about that night we first met. We'd laugh at all the good things that happened since, and we'd laugh about how much fun it was for his kids, all the stupid mistakes we made trying to figure out how to be good dads," Fallon added through tears. "Kobe had four daughters, and I had two daughters, and today, he and one of his girls are gone. But I think I knew Kobe enough to say 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. 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."

The Late Late Show with James Corden

James Corden also shared in the collective grief on The Late Late Showby recalling his most recent encounter with Bryant, saying, "I keep finding myself thinking about the last time that Kobe was here on the show. He was freshly retired, and ... he couldn't stop talking about how excited he was to have all this free time to devote to his family and to coach his daughters. And I remember loving hearing him talk like that, a man who achieved so much in his life was just so excited to get to be a dad for a while."

"Our hearts break with this tragedy," Cordon added. "Our thoughts and our love go out to Kobe's wife and his children, his family, his 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 family, too. I wish I could say something to make sense of it all, and I can't find the words. All I can say is this: if you can, take a moment tonight, tomorrow, to call up someone you love, just let them know."

Jimmy Kimmel Live airs weeknights at 11:35/10:35c on ABC. Conan airs weeknights at 11/10c on TBS. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon airs weeknights at 11:35/10:35c on NBC. The Late Late Show with James Corden airs weeknights at 12:35/11:35c on CBS.