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Vanessa announces ‘celebration of life’ for Kobe and Gianna

People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant, who was among nine people killed in a January 26 helicopter crash © AFP/File / Apu GOMES

LOS ANGELES, United States, Feb 8 Vanessa Bryant announced plans for a public celebration of life for her late husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna on February 24 in a touching Instagram post on Friday.

“#2, #24 #20 years as a Laker,” the bereaved wife and mother wrote in the post, confirming that a memorial service would be held at Staples Center arena that Monday morning at 10:00 (1800 GMT).

She said more details were to come.

Gianna Bryant wore No. 2 for her school basketball team and Kobe Bryant wore No. 24 in the later stages of his iconic 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kobe Bryant, 41, and 13-year-old Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in the rugged hills west of Los Angeles on January 26.

The event will fall on a day between two Lakers home games, but the rival Los Angeles Clippers will host the Memphis Grizzlies in an NBA game at the arena in downtown Los Angeles that night.

Lee Zeidman, president of Staples Center, told the Los Angeles Times that getting the court ready for the game won’t be a problem.

“Staples Center has hosted over 220 doubleheaders in its 20-year history,” Zeidman said. “While this is going to be a very emotional day for the Bryant family, the Los Angeles Lakers, the city of Los Angeles, as well as for the men and women who work at Staples Center, we are very confident we will be ready for 6 pm doors opening for the Clippers-Memphis game following the ceremony.”

Staples Center, also the home of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and venue for concerts and events such as the recent Grammy Awards, has hosted memorials for recording artists Michael Jackson and Nipsey Hussle.

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Fans mourning Bryant had made the area outside Staples a spontaneous shrine, leaving mountains of flowers along with basketballs, jerseys, stuffed animals and other mementoes.

Those items have been cleared away, with thousands of them being sent to Vanessa Bryant at her request.

The Lakers themselves paid emotional tribute to Bryant there in their first game after the club legend’s death, when they hosted the Portland Trail Blazers five days after the accident.

Gianna’s teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, Alyssa’s parents John and Keri Altobelli, Payton’s mother Sarah Chester, basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan also died in the crash, which remains under investigation.

A memorial service was scheduled for Monday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim for the Altobelli family. John Altobelli, 56, was a longtime coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team.

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