The loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, many others were honored during last night’s awards show

“Tonight is for Kobe,” Lizzo said as she set the tone for last night’s 62nd Grammy Awards before her performance.
The night was filled with over 20 performances, many featuring tributes to basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who passed away the morning of the ceremony. His daughter, Gianna, and seven others also passed away. The venue for the night was Staples Center, the home of the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that Bryant had played for the entirety of his historic career.

“We’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built,” the show’s host, Alicia Keys, said before performing “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday,” as a tribute to Bryant with Boyz II Men. 

Bryant’s jersey was featured heavily throughout the awards. His two retired jerseys hanging in Staples Center were held up during Run DMC and Aerosmith’s performance of “Walk This Way” and on the couch during a performance of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” featuring BTS, Mason Ramsey and Billy Ray Cyrus.

However, Bryant wasn’t the only person to receive tributes throughout the show. Artists including John Legend, Meek Mill, DJ Khaled and Kirk Franklin banded together to perform a tribute to Nipsey Hussle, the Los Angeles rapper who was shot and killed in March of last year. The performance of Legend, Hussle and Khaled’s “Higher,” which went on to win Best Rap/Sung Performance, concluded with pictures of Hussle and Bryant side by side.

Another tribute included a performance by Usher, Sheila E. and FKA Twigs of a medley of songs by Prince. Bonnie Raitt performed “Angel From Montgomery” as a tribute to John Prine and a large group of artists including Cyndi Lauper, Ben Platt, Gary Clark Jr., ballerina Misty Copeland and dancers from the Debbie Allen Dance Company performed to “Body Electric” from “Fame” to honor music educators and Grammys executive producer, Ken Ehrlich, in his final year executive producing the show.

The theme of loss was prominent in award speeches from Lizzo, empowering speeches from Keys, the many tributes of the night and in Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile’s performance of “Bring My Flowers Now,” which earned the former her first Grammy award 47 years after her first nomination when she was just 13. There was also a powerful return to the stage from Demi Lovato, singing “Anyone,” a song she’d never performed and wrote just four days before her near-fatal overdose in July of 2018, receiving one of the many standing ovations of the night. 

With the heavy handedness of this theme, it was surprising to see such a rushed in memoriam segment, without any announcement before names of the deceased appeared following a commercial break. The last 30 minutes of the night was rushed as the show inevitably ran over time at a long three hours and 43 minutes. 

In these last rushed 30 minutes, multiple big awards were announced after a night full of 22 performances and very few award handouts. Three of these big awards, Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Album of the Year, all went to Billie Eilish, making the 18-year-old the youngest winner of Album of the Year in Grammys’ history.

The night was clearly impacted by the fresh loss of Bryant, just as the 2012 Grammys quickly turned into a memorial for Whitney Houston when they occurred just a day after her passing, but those present handled it with grace and dignity. 

The host summed it up best, saying, “I know how much [Bryant] loved music, we’ve got to make this a celebration in his honor,” and that’s exactly what they did.