‘I thought he was going to live forever’: How late-night hosts remembered Kobe Bryant

Jimmy Kimmel didn't have a studio audience, and filled his show with clips of Bryant's 15 appearances.

Jimmy Kimmel (right) filled Monday night's show with clips from Kobe Bryant's 15 appearances on the show.
Jimmy Kimmel (right) filled Monday night's show with clips from Kobe Bryant's 15 appearances on the show. –ABC

While late-night television is known for its ability to find laughter in every situation, the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles Sunday put things into perspective for favorite hosts.

From emotional monologues to clip shows, here’s how late-night hosts remembered Kobe Bryant.

‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’

For Jimmy Kimmel, going forward with “a comedy show” in the wake of the tragic helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven others Sunday “didn’t feel right.”

So he didn’t. Rather than film a regular episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live Monday night, Kimmel opted to open with a monologue remembering Bryant, 41, and fill the remainder of the show (which had no studio audience) with moments from Bryant’s 15 appearances on the show.

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“This might not make sense, but he was just the last person you could ever imagine something like this happening to,” Kimmel said. “He was so strong and handsome and smart and energetic. He was a hero.

“As an athlete, he was incredibly gifted, more than almost anyone. He was talented beyond reason, and yet he worked harder than everyone. He worked harder than people with much less talent than he had. He took his job and his pursuit of excellence so seriously. He was completely dedicated to being as good as he could possibly be.”

The Kobe Bryant that Kimmel remembered was more than a basketball star – he was dedicated to family, and not just his own. He called to check in on Kimmel when the late-night host’s son was in the hospital. Bryant had off-court passions, too. Kimmel sent Bryant a book, and when the basketball legend had too many questions for him to answer, connected him with the author.

“I know he wasn’t a perfect person,” said an emotional Kimmel, acknowledging rape allegations against Bryant. “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 people in [Los Angeles].”

‘Conan’

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Conan O’Brien also chose to remember Bryant as a man beyond basketball.

“Whenever he was on our show, he was just a joy to talk with and he always had the audience in the palm of his hand,” O’Brien said, before showing clips of Bryant on the show. “That’s the guy that I’ve been thinking about these past 24 hours.”

‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’

Jimmy Fallon tearfully remembered Bryant during his own monologue. The pair met at a party when they were newcomers to Los Angeles – Bryant, then 17, had just joined the Lakers, and Fallon, 21, was breaking into the comedy scene.

“Kobe was such a life force,” Fallon said. “So strong, creative, and inspired, that in my head I thought that he was going to live forever.”

Later, after Bryant “became a legend,” Fallon said the pair would bond over “how to be good dads.” That set the tone for how Fallon urged viewers to honor Bryant’s memory.

‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’

“Let’s honor Kobe, Gianna, and the other lives that were lost by following his example,” Fallon said. “Love your family, love your teammates, and outwork everyone in the gym.”

That was the stance James Corden took on The Late Late Show, as well. Corden said Bryant, in their final interview together, was “just so excited to get to be a dad for a while.”

“I wish I could say something to make sense of it all,” Corden said. “All I can think of is this: if you can, take a moment, tonight, tomorrow, to call up someone you love and just let them know.”