Kobe Bryant Celebration of Life: Lakers Star Honored in Hometown of Philadelphia Ahead of Staples Center Memorial

The memorial services for Kobe Bryant didn't start and end in Los Angeles at the Staple Center where the Celebration of Life service honoring the late basketball star and his daughter, Gianna, took place on Monday. Bryant's reach went far beyond his sport and the respective city he spent his entire 20-year career.

Bryant was born and grew up in Philadelphia during his teen years. He went on to be a star at Lower Merion High School after spending time in Italy before moving back as a 13-year-old. The city viewed him as an icon and has celebrated his life as such. A local cheesesteak shop, Larry's Steaks, which was Bryant's favorite in the city, honored him by dedicating his corner booth to him and his daughter.

On Monday, the owner placed candles at the table for their own community memorial.

"It's sad because he died very young," owner Tony Elebah told CBS Philly. "We're gonna miss him, seriously. My kids cry really so hard for him because they know him like a very close person to us and we're going to miss shipping the cheesesteak to Los Angeles."

Following his passing, his former high school paid tribute to him with their own memorial and a special video during their first game back on the court following the helicopter crash.

His high school coach, Gregg Downer, explained on a conference call just how broken down he became after learning of the tragedy.

"For a period of three to five minutes, we were hoping and praying that this was all a bad joke or all a bad dream. As reality began to set in, I broke down in the middle of my kitchen."

He added that he had a difficult time processing the news and that "a lot of little kids lost their hero," noting that he, too, lost his.


On the opposite coast, the ceremony at the Staples Center included many heart-wrenching moments, including an array of stories shared by Vanessa Bryant that shined a light on the man she knew and the father he was to their children.

Vanessa called him the "romantic one in the relationship" and shared a story about how he gifted her the blue dress worn by Rachel McAdams and the actual book prop from The Notebook for one of their anniversaries.