Jimmy Kimmel's late night show Jimmy Kimmel Live!, was without a studio audience on Monday night in the wake of Kobe Bryant's death, with Kimmel choosing to honor the basketball legend by re-airing an old episode featuring the NBA superstar.
"Going forward with a comedy show didn't feel right given what happened yesterday, so I'd like to just speak to you directly," he said at the top of the show before reflecting on Bryant's death.
"That was a punch in the gut for many of us," Kimmel said. "Kobe was – and I know this might not make sense – but he was just the last person you could have ever imagined something like this happening to. He was so strong and handsome and smart and energetic. He was a hero."
"And when I say that, I don't mean a hero like real heroes — like firefighters, or doctors and nurses — who actually save lives," he added. "I don't mean to compare what he did for a living to what they do. I know there are more important things than basketball. Almost everything is more important."
Kimmel continued by remembering Bryant's NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers and his incredible work ethic.
"Those of us who love the Lakers know [that] it seemed like he always came through," he said. "He always showed up to save the day... He had a force of will, he never gave up. 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."
The host recalled sending Bryant a book after the athlete tore his Achilles tendon — he said that Bryant called him to talk about it in "maniacal detail," so Kimmel connected him with the author. Kimmel also shared that when young son, Billy, was in the hospital having heart surgery, Bryant "checked in with me repeatedly" and made a point to meet Billy.
"I know he wasn't a perfect person. I understand that," Kimmel continued, subtly acknowledging the rape accusations against Bryant. "My intention is not to canonize him. Or to make judgments about things I don't know anything about. But I will say [that] he loved his family, he worked very hard and he brought a lot of joy to a lot of people in this city."
The late-night host concluded his introduction by revealing that the show would air clips of the former Laker's 15 appearances on the late night show over the years and asking viewers to pray for Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who also died in the crash, as well as the seven other victims and their families.
"I can't imagine how much they are missed," Kimmel said. "This was a terrible loss for those families, and for the Lakers, for Kobe's teammates, for his fans. There's no silver lining here, it's just awful. It's all bad. It's all sad. [Bryant] was a bright light, and that's how I want to remember him."
Photo Credit: Getty / Randy Holmes