Oscars Pay Tribute to Kobe Bryant, Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas Kobe Bryant Split - Getty - H 2020
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The Oscar winners — who died on Jan. 26 and Wednesday, respectively — were honored during the In Memoriam tribute.

The Oscars on Sunday paid tribute to Kobe Bryant and Kirk Douglas, two Academy Award winners who died recently, during this year's In Memoriam tribute.

The late former NBA superstar/producer and the acting legend bookended the package, which was introduced by Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg, who praised the group: "Legends and icons. Our friends and fellow artists, all who have inspired and touched us."

The package began with a picture and quote from Bryant: "Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going." Producers of the Academy Awards reportedly made last-minute changes to the In Memoriam tribute in order to honor Douglas, who closed the segment. It had also been reported that larger tributes would be paid to the late stars.

Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O'Connell performed a cover of The Beatles' "Yesterday" during the segment. Actors Luke Perry, Sid Haig and Cameron Boyce were noticeably left out of the televised tribute.

Douglas, also a three-time Oscar nominee, received the lifetime achievement Oscar in 1996. Bryant became an Oscar winner in 2018 when his short film Dear Basketball took home the best animated short film statuette. 

Bryant tributes also came earlier in the night, with the filmmakers of Hair Love dedicating their animated short Oscar win to the late athlete ("May we all have a second act as great as his was," said writer-director and former NFL pro Matthew A. Cherry) and Spike Lee wearing a Bryant-inspired tuxedo to Sunday's show and stepping onstage to introduce the best director award only moments before the tribute. The director of the 2009 documentary Kobe: Doin' Work sported a custom purple Gucci suit with gold trim and patches of Bryant's jersey number, 24, stitched on the lapels and on the back of the jacket.

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died Jan. 26 when their helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. At the Grammys that night, which took place at Staples Center, Bryant was remembered by host Alicia Keys and in several tributes, as well as by the fans who came out to the venue in droves. The NBA also honored the Los Angeles Laker great and the other victims during the Lakers' first home game, with every seat at Staples Center featuring a replica of one of Bryant's jerseys and LeBron James, Usher and Boyz II Men leading a courtside tribute.

Douglas, after leading one of the most indelible and indefatigable careers in Hollywood history, died Wednesday in Los Angeles. “It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” announced son Michael Douglas. “To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the Golden Age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.”

The 2020 Oscars aired live on ABC from the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood.