A mushrooming crowd of people, many of them in tears, gathered near the arena to mourn the 41-year-old Bryant. Flags were flying at half-mast
The 2020 Grammys kicked off Sunday with an emotional tribute to the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant, whose sudden death in a helicopter crash left Los Angeles in tears on music's marquee night.
Before the star-studded event's top nominee Lizzo owned the stage at the Staples Center with a show-stopping medley of her top hits — where Bryant made NBA history as a championship-winning Laker — she laid down the evening's overarching theme: "Tonight is for Kobe."
The twerking flautist then handed the torch to host Alicia Keys, who offered another love letter to Bryant's memory: "We're all feeling crazy sadness right now. Earlier today, Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero."
"And we're literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built," said Keys, before launching into a soulful rendition of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye" with the group Boyz II Men.
"He would want us to keep the vibrations high," Keys later said, before singing a humorous yet soothing opening monologue at the piano.
A mushrooming crowd of people, many of them in tears, gathered near the arena to mourn the 41-year-old Bryant. Flags were flying at half-mast.
The evening nevertheless promises a series of rollicking performances from Lizzo's top competition for major awards, Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X, as well as tributes to the veteran rockers Aerosmith and the late rapper Nipsey Hussle.
Lizzo took home the first broadcast award of the night for best pop solo performance, having already won two awards in the pre-gala event.
"This is really… sick," the 31-year-old superstar said through tears, before alluding to Bryant's death.
"This whole week I'd be lost in my problems, stressed out — and then in an instant all of that can go away and your priorities really shift," she said.
"Let's continue to reach out, hold each other down and lift each other up."
In the pre-gala event, Eilish won for Best Pop Vocal Album, and Lil Nas X lassoed two trophies of a potential six.
"I feel like I'm not supposed to be here," Eilish, 18, wearing Gucci, said on the red carpet after winning her first award of the night.
"Life is weird."