After DeGeneres complimented the singer’s role as host, she admitted that the night got off to a stressful start. “We were all freaking out because obviously hearing the news about Kobe and his daughter was so tragic and none of us can still believe it now to this day,” said Keys.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others had died earlier Sunday in a helicopter crash.
Keys said that they had to “properly honor him in his house.” The ceremony took place at the Staples Center, where the legendary athlete played with the Los Angeles Lakers until his retirement from the NBA in 2016.
“It was definitely a crazy feeling because literally minutes before we were going to do something else, and we had to really figure out, how can we properly honor him in his house on this night?” she said. “And everyone who adores him and loves him so much has been inspired by him and felt so devastated in that moment.”
“I was literally backstage, I put on my meditation music, I just was thinking and I called some of my closest people that helped me really find the truth in the moment,” the singer continued. “It just so happened Boyz II Men was there already that night and we wanted to do something special, create just something that felt like it was the right thing, and we pulled it together and it was just beautiful. It was like that magic that happens when it’s necessary.”
She added that the night was “so much.” Keys continued, “I was so honored to be able to share that moment with all of us, with the entire world, that we together could go through something that hurts to bad together.”
“I feel really honored to have been able to be there with you in that time,” she concluded.
“We were at Staples, we were at his house. We’re sitting there looking up at [his] two [retired] jerseys that are on the wall there. So there was no way we could not do it,” Ehrlich said. “He [wasn’t] necessarily that close to a lot of musicians, but everybody looked up to him. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing number 24.”
The producer added that Boyz II Men, who joined Keys onstage for the tribute performance, were already at the show to perform with Tyler, the Creator. After he broke the news to Keys, they began to brainstorm ideas for a tribute.
“We started coming up with a plan, and it was basically [Grammy show executives] David Wild, Ben Winston, Garry Hood, who’s my lead stage manager, and myself, and we went into her dressing room. Alicia and I primarily were thinking about songs and we went a little gospel. I never said it, but I was thinking about Boyz II Men,” Erlich continued. “I left, and about five minutes later I got a call from one of her people saying, ‘Hey, can we find Boyz II Men to do ‘It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” We found them and they went into her dressing room. It was about 15 minutes before showtime. They spent probably 10 minutes working it out and then it was there.”
Bryant’s jersey or image was also featured during Lil Nas X, the Nipsey Hussle tribute and Aerosmith performances. Additionally, Lizzo made a shout-out at the beginning of the show.
“I made a few calls and then there were others who had already decided they wanted to do something. I did have a conversation with Lee Zeidman, who runs Staples, and he said, ‘Whatever you need — jerseys, equipment,'” said the producer. “I think we did get a couple, and a couple of the [performers] had them already.”