Grammys Open With Kobe Bryant Tribute

Lizzo, host Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men all honored the Lakers great who died suddenly in a helicopter crash Sunday.

The 2020 Grammys kicked off with a tribute to late basketball great Kobe Bryant, who died Sunday in a helicopter crash.

Lizzo, clad in a sparkly black gown, performed to start the show, announcing, "Tonight is for Kobe," before launching into "Cuz I Love You" from her album of the same name. She later transitioned into her hit "Truth Hurts."

Grammys host Alicia Keys then paid tribute to Bryant at the top of the show, after Lizzo's performance, somberly addressing the audience and saying that everyone was feeling "crazy sadness" after the loss of "a hero" in Bryant.

"We're literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built," she said to applause from the well-heeled crowd at the Lakers' longtime home of the Staples Center. She urged the audience to hold Bryant and the other victims of the crash in their hearts and told them to share their strength and support with the families of the victims. Then Keys was joined by Boyz II Men to perform a bit of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," ending by saying "We love you, Kobe."

She concluded by arguing that she and others at the Grammys will "do what we're here to do."

"We're going to bring it all together and make sure we're celebrating the most powerful energy, the one thing that has the power to bring all of us together and that's music," she said. "It's the most healing thing in the world"

Later, while playing the piano and serenading the audience, she addressed something others had referenced about Bryant in the Grammys' red carpet preshows: how much he loved music.

"I'm looking forward to being here together with all of us again celebrating this music," Keys said. "Because I know how much Kobe loved music. I know how much he loved music. So we've got to make this a celebration in his honor, you know? He would want us to keep the vibrations high. Music is that one language we can all speak. It doesn't matter where we're from. We all understand it."

During Aerosmith and Run-DMC's performance of "Walk This Way," a performer held up one of Bryant's No. 24 Lakers jerseys.

During Lil Nas X's star-studded performance of "Old Town Road," Billy Ray Cyrus played a guitar with the number 24 on it and one of the performers cried out at the end, "Kobe, we love you."

Bryant was also remembered during a tribute to the late rapper Nipsey Hussle, with the Lakers star's image emblazoned next to Hussle's on a screen at the back of the stage at the end of the performance. DJ Khaled also name-checked Bryant.

Priyanka Chopra also sported a "24" on her nails.

At the end of the ceremony, Keys didn't let Bryant be forgotten, closing in part with, "God bless Kobe's family."

A Recording Academy rep confirmed to Billboard earlier Sunday that there would be a tribute to the former Los Angeles Lakers star during the CBS broadcast.

Both of Bryant's retired jersey numbers were illuminated in the Staples Center rafters, which the cameras focused on during Keys' opener.

Earlier, the nontelevised Premiere Ceremony, where the majority of the Grammys trophies are handed out, began with a moment of silence for Bryant.

Interim Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. began the event by noting Bryant's death, saying, according to the Associated Press, "Since we are in his house, I would ask you to join me in a moment of silence."

The televised portion of the Grammys took place at the Staples Center, but the earlier, premiere ceremony, which runs from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. PT, was at the Microsoft Theater.

Fans were also gathering outside of Staples Center to pay tribute to Bryant.

Additionally, both Billboard and E!'s live red carpet preshows opened by acknowledging how Bryant's death had cast a pall over the celebratory occasion, with the hosts expressing their grief and support for Bryant's family.

Ryan Seacrest kicked off E!'s two-hour live red carpet preshow by saying the program was "starting … on a very somber note" and that he and his colleagues were "deeply saddened" by Bryant's death and those of the others in the crash, including Bryant's daughter Gianna. Seacrest argued that the loss will be "felt even more at a place [Bryant] called home, the Staples Center."

Co-host Giuliana Rancic added that the news was "devastating" and that her heart is "so heavy" and "goes out to [Bryant's wife] Vanessa and their family."

Seacrest said Bryant was a "music lover" and was "close to many in the industry coming down this carpet."

Diplo, Smokey Robinson, Common, Dua Lipa and H.E.R. were among those who commented on mourning Bryant amid the celebratory evening during the E! preshow.

Trevor Noah also said on E!, "I don't think I have processed anything yet. I don't think anybody has. It's very strange when you feel like you know somebody because of all the moments and impacts somebody has had on your life, and I think that's what a lot of people are going through with the news of Kobe Bryant and his daughter and the other people who were involved in the crash. And it's one of those experiences where you can feel it. Everyone's walking in; we're celebrating each other today but now it feels like the entire Staples is going to be celebrating somebody who just strove for excellence, someone who inspired others to be the best they can be."

E! News co-host Jason Kennedy also broke into the red carpet coverage from the studio to talk about the news of Bryant's death. Kennedy, who said he lives just six minutes from the site of the crash, drove over to the scene and described, "People just in droves showed up. So many people in Kobe's jerseys visibly crying and weeping at the scene because they wanted to just be a part of it. They were just trying to take the whole thing in. It was eerily quiet."

Over on CBS, during its one-hour red carpet preshow, host Kevin Frazier opened the broadcast by acknowledging the "sudden and tragic passing" of Bryant, who he said was a friend, and calling it a "tough day in L.A." Co-host Keltie Knight said that Bryant "transcended being a sports icon" as he had recently begun the "second chapter of his life."

Frazier also confirmed that the Grammys team was making some "last-minute changes to address the deaths of both Bryant and his daughter Gianna."

Frazier also brought in Sharon Osbourne, co-host of the CBS daytime show The Talk, who said she saw Bryant in September and that the Jonas Brothers had canceled interviews for the night because they were in shock over Bryant's death.

DJ Khaled and Cyrus also spoke about Bryant during interviews on CBS.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among the nine people who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas on Sunday morning. ESPN senior NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said, according to sources, that Bryant was on his way to a travel basketball game with his daughter when the helicopter crashed.

During his Lakers career — where he won five NBA championships and is the franchise leader in points (33,643), games played (1,346), three-pointers (1,827), steals (1,944) and free throws (8,378) — Bryant would regularly travel via helicopter from his home to Lakers' home games. He retired in 2016.

Bryant also won the best animated short Oscar for his five-minute autobiographical film Dear Basketball, which he wrote, executive produced and lent his voice to.

Musicians were among the stars remembering Bryant on social media before the Grammys began, with Nick Jonas, John Legend, Justin Bieber, Paul Stanley and Ella Mai all expressing their shock and grief.

Jackie Strause contributed to this story.