Grammys Kick Off As Kobe Death Stuns Los Angeles

 

 

 

The Grammy awards got underway Sunday with superstars Lizzo, Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X primed for glory — as grief over the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant cast a pall on music’s marquee night in Los Angeles.

Sorrow casts a shadow over the show held at the Staples Center — the same venue where the basketball icon led the city’s Lakers to multiple championships.

Dozens of people, many of them in tears, gathered near the arena to mourn the 41-year-old Bryant, who died Sunday in a helicopter crash in the hills west of the California metropolis. Flags were flying at half-mast.

The evening nevertheless still promises rollicking performances from the trio of Grammy frontrunners, as well as tributes to the veteran rockers Aerosmith and the late rapper Nipsey Hussle.

Early prizes handed out at the pre-gala event went to Lady Gaga, who won two for her soundtrack for the hit film “A Star Is Born,” and Beyonce, who nabbed the prize for best music film for “Homecoming.”

“Rest in peace Kobe, we love you,” Steve Pamon, a “Homecoming” director, said in accepting the trophy.

Overnight country-rap sensation Lil Nas X, up for six awards, snagged his first Grammy for the music video of his smash earworm “Old Town Road.”

“Um, thank you!” the bubbly 20-year-old told the audience with a wide smile glimmering below his white 10-gallon hat.

Eilish’s debut studio album won its first award of the night in the engineering categories.

Pop’s new guard is poised to usher in a new era — but scandal backstage has threatened to tarnish the glitz.

Just days before the gala, the Recording Academy’s suspended CEO Deborah Dugan — the first woman to lead the embattled institution behind the Grammys — filed an explosive discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

She says she was suspended after raising concerns over sexual harassment, voting irregularities and other misconduct within the Academy — one of music’s most influential organizations, but one long accused of favoritism and a lack of diversity.

Dugan also alleged that her predecessor, Neil Portnow, had raped a foreign female musician — an allegation he has rejected as “ludicrous and untrue.”

‘We need transparency’

The backstage storm has threatened to cloud the Grammy celebration, despite a diverse slate of nominees that celebrates a mix of established and budding stars.

On Saturday night at the annual pre-Grammy gala hosted by industry legend Clive Davis, hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs railed at the Academy.

“Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be,” Combs told a star-studded audience as he was honored as an industry icon, according to Variety.

“We need transparency, we need diversity.”

The magnetic Lizzo, 31, is poised to be this year’s queen bee, leading the Grammy pack with eight nominations, including in all the top four categories (album, record and song of the year plus best new artist).

Lil Nas X, the 18-year-old goth-leaning pop iconoclast Eilish and the enigmatic 22-year-old R&B prodigy H.E.R. are also formidable contenders.

The establishment’s newcomers will square off against veteran powerhouses including Ariana Grande and Beyonce, as well as alt-leaning acts Lana Del Rey, Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend.

Often remembered as much for its performances as its winners, the Grammys will feature Lizzo, Eilish and Grande, along with a genre-blending rendition of “Old Town Road” that will feature K-pop sensation BTS, country star Billy Ray Cyrus and the eclectic DJ Diplo, among others.

Artists including John Legend, Meek Mill and DJ Khaled — all up for Grammys this year — will perform a tribute to Hussle, who was shot dead last year and is up for three posthumous awards.

The British country-soul revivalist Yola, up for four Grammys including the prestigious best new artist prize, said she’s still soaking in all the glamour.

Upon learning of her nominations, the bluesy singer with a big voice told AFP on Friday that she “cried for days.”

“It was hilarious and emotional and I’m just so thrilled to be here,” she said.

Neymar Dedicates PSG Goal To Kobe Bryant

 

Neymar dedicated his second goal at Lille to basketball legend Kobe Bryant, whose death on Sunday in a helicopter crash shocked the world.

The Brazilian slotted home the 52nd-minute penalty that put PSG two goals up in the French Ligue 1 clash and went over to the television cameras by the side of the Stade Pierre Mauro pitch to make the number 24 with his fingers in honour of Bryant’s shirt number.

Bryant, who had been nominated for the NBA Hall of Fame in December, was confirmed dead at 41 years old on Sunday after a helicopter crashed and burst into flames in foggy conditions in suburban Los Angeles, leaving five people dead.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said there were no survivors from the morning crash on a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of LA.

In an email to AFP, Mayor of Calabasas Alicia Weintraub confirmed Bryant was among the victims.

“Yes, it is confirmed,” Weintraub wrote.

NBA Legend Kobe Bryant, Daughter Die In Helicopter Crash

Bryant, 41, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on January 26, 2020.Robyn BECK / AFP

 

NBA legend Kobe Bryant died Sunday when a helicopter he was riding in crashed and burst into flames in thick fog, killing all nine people on board including his teenage daughter and plunging the sports world into mourning.

Bryant, 41, was travelling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when their Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.

Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist, is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history, an iconic figure who became one of the faces of his sport during a glittering two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dozens of firefighters and paramedics battled across steep terrain to reach the flaming wreckage at the crash site but found no survivors, officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said an 18-strong team of investigators would be sent to California to probe the causes of the crash.

Investigators work at the scene of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020, in Calabasas, California. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

 

Bryant’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world, with basketball stars stunned by the news.

“Laker Nation, the game of basketball & our city, will never be the same without Kobe,” former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.

Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan said Bryant was “like a little brother” to him.

“Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling,” Jordan said. “We used to talk often and I will miss those conversations very much.”

In this file photo taken on April 09, 2014, NBA Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant stands on the sideline with his daughter Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant on his shoulders prior to the start of a friendly game between the United States and China at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. 
Photo: Kent Horner / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Worldwide tributes

Tributes to Bryant flooded in from former US presidents, pop stars and athletes from different sports, a sign of how the man known as the “Black Mamba” had transcended basketball.

“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” former US President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter.

American football star Tom Brady wrote simply: “We miss you already Kobe.”

Brazilian soccer star Neymar paid tribute to Bryant after scoring for his French club side Paris Saint-Germain, making the number 24 — Bryant’s old shirt number — with his fingers.

At the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, several hundred shocked fans gathered to pay tribute as the venue which witnessed many of Bryant’s career highlights hosted the music industry’s Grammy Awards.

“This dude is everything to me man. It makes no sense,” said distraught Lakers fan Bobby Jimenez, sobbing as he stood outside the venue.

The Grammys got underway with a somber tribute from singer Alicia Keys.

“To be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” Keys told the audience. “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.”

Across the NBA, tributes were held at several of the eight games scheduled for Sunday.

Denver Nuggets fans began chants of “Kobe, Kobe” as a minute’s silence was held before their game against the Houston Rockets.

In New York, Madison Square Garden was lit up in purple and gold colors of the Lakers, alongside a giant image of Bryant captioned: “Kobe Bryant, 1978-2020.”

The crash came only hours after Bryant was passed by current Lakers star LeBron James for third on the all-time NBA scoring list in a Saturday game at Philadelphia.

Bryant’s final post on social media had been a tweet congratulating James on surpassing him.

“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant wrote. “Much respect my brother #33644”.

Five-time champion

Bryant was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of a high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016.

He also was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helping spark the US squad of NBA stars to titles in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.

Bryant bowed out of the NBA in 2016, scoring 60 points in his final appearance before his adoring fans at the Staples Center.

It was a fairytale farewell to a sporting career that began two decades earlier.

The son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, the Lakers legend was born in Philadelphia in 1978 while his father played for the 76ers.

The elder Bryant played from 1984 to 1991 in Italy, giving young Kobe a global worldview as he grew up dreaming of following his dad into the NBA.

He would eventually join the ranks of professionals at the age of 17, jumping directly into the NBA, only the sixth player and first guard to make such a leap.

At 18, Bryant became, at the time, the youngest player or starter in an NBA game and the youngest winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

With Bryant paired alongside Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers captured three NBA crowns in a row from 2000-2002, returning the team to glory days unseen since 1988.

Bryant’s career was almost derailed in 2003 when he was arrested in Colorado over a sexual assault complaint filed by a 19-year-old hotel employee where Bryant was staying ahead of knee surgery.

Bryant was accused of rape. He admitted to adultery but said he did not commit rape. The case was dropped in 2004 after the accuser refused to testify in a trial.

A separate civil suit was settled under terms kept private.

Bryant saw out his career with the Lakers, successfully branching out into the entertainment industry following his retirement.

In 2018, he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball”, a love letter to the sport which brought him fame and fortune.

AFP

Ordega hat-trick fires Falconets into quarter finals

Nigeria cruised into the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 women’s world cup clinging onto the top spot of their group.

Nigeria grouped with Brazil, Korea Republic and Italy thrashed Italy 4-0 to earn a place in the quarter-final thanks to Francisca Ordega who scored an hat-trick to ensure victory for the Falconets.

Italy was beaten by Korea Republic and played a draw with Brazil, Italy needed a victory against Nigeria by at least two goals to ensure their quarter-finals ticket but unfortunately it was mission impossible for Italy.

Before the clash with Italy, the Falconets had a one-point advantage at the top of Group B knowing victory against Italy will give a spot in the quarter-finals and also make them group winners.

Ordega opened the scoring midway through the first half and before the end of the half she doubled Nigeria’s lead against Italy prompting the vision of Nigeria cruising to a comfortable victory in Kobe.

Ordega completed her treble just two minutes into the second half of the game.

Substitute Osarenoma Igbinovia iced the cake with a fourth a few minutes from full time as Nigeria booked a quarter-final.

For the quarter-final clash, Nigeria will be going headlong with either Japan or New Zealand.