In Memoriam
January 28, 2020

The first time Jimmy Fallon met Kobe Bryant, they were at a house party in Los Angeles, Bryant a 17-year-old Laker and Fallon a 21-year-old up-and-coming comedian, Fallon said at the start of Monday's Tonight Show, 24 hours after news broke that Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven other people died in a helicopter accident.

The two of them went on a memorable beer run, Fallon said, "and when we'd run into each other over the years, we'd laugh about that night that we first met, we'd laugh about all the good things that had happened since, and we'd laugh about how fun it was to raise kids and all the stupid mistakes we made figuring out how to be good dads," he added, choking up. "Kobe had four daughters and I have two daughters, and today he and one of his girls are gone. ... Kobe, when we meet again, we're going on a beer run."

Monday's Jimmy Kimmel Live didn't have an audience, "because going forward with a comedy show didn't feel right," Kimmel said. Bryant's death "was a punch in the gut for many of us," he explained. "I had many conversations with Kobe off of television, and they always involved his daughters — always. Once he retired from basketball, his life revolved around their lives." Kimmel also started crying: "There's no silver lining here. It's all bad. It's all sad. He was a bright light, and that's how I want to remember him." So the rest of the show was clips from Bryant's 15 appearances on Kimmel Live.

Sportscenter's Elle Duncan also teared up when recalling her one meeting with Bryant, in which he gushed about being a father to four girls, more if possible. "The only small source of comfort for me is knowing that he died doing what he loved the most: being a dad," she said. "Being a girl dad."

Conan O'Brien focused on "another aspect of Kobe's talent: He was naturally very funny and charming." That's "the guy that I've been thinking about these past 24 hours," he said, "and it's that memory that I would like to share with you tonight."

The Late Late Show's James Corden was almost at a loss for words: "All I can think of is this: If you can, take a moment — tonight, tomorrow — to call up someone you love and just let them know." Peter Weber

January 26, 2020

The basketball world is reacting to the deaths of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.

Kobe, 41, and Gianna, 13, were killed on Sunday morning along with seven others when their helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. In a statement, Michael Jordan said words "can't describe the pain I'm feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply — and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball."

Bryant's former teammate Shaquille O'Neal tweeted there were "no words to express the pain I'm going through," calling Gianna his "niece" and Kobe "my brother." Magic Johnson said Bryant was the "greatest Laker of all time," and the fact that he is gone is "hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players." Without Bryant, he added, the game of basketball "will never be the same."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Bryant, "one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game," showed "what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning." Bryant "will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability," Silver continued. "He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna." Catherine Garcia

January 9, 2020

Over a long and storied career in TV and film, Buck Henry co-created the TV show Get Smart with Mel Brooks, wrote the screenplay for The Graduate (1967), played Tina Fey's father on 30 Rock, and hosted Saturday Night Live 10 times in its first five seasons, playing several memorable roles. Henry died Wednesday at age 89. His wife, Irene Ramp, said the cause was a heart attack.

Henry, born Henry Zuckerman in 1930, was the son of a prominent stockbroker and silent film star Ruth Taylor. The Graduate, directed by his childhood friend Mike Nichols, was Henry's first screenwriting job. It got him the first of two Oscar nominations, followed by a directing nod for the 1978 Warren Beatty movie Heaven Can Wait. Henry also wrote scripts for 1968's Candy, Nichols' 1970 adaptation of Catch-22, the hit Barbra Streisand comedy What's Up, Doc? (1972), and 1995's To Die For, starring Nicole Kidman. He won a writing Emmy in 1967 for a double episode of Get Smart.

Nichols wrote himself small roles in many of his movies and often played wry straight men on TV, as in his recurring SNL role alongside John Belushi's Samurai character.

Henry was "the funniest and most serious guy I'd ever met — simultaneously," said Nichols, who died in 2014. "He wasn't a screenwriter when I asked him to write the screenplay" for The Graduate, Nichols told Vanity Fair in 2008. "He had not, to my knowledge, written anything. And I said, 'I think you could do it; I think you should do it.' And he could, and he did." Nichols, who took over the project from screenwriter Calder Willingham, got much of his dialogue from the Charles Webb novella, but he came up with some of the most memorable lines on his own, like the generation-defining advice about "plastics."

"Off camera," The Washington Post reports, "Henry cultivated a reputation as a dry-witted comedian-intellectual." You can watch him talk about writing dark comedy below. Peter Weber

January 2, 2020

David Stern, who fundamentally transformed professional basketball during his 30 years as NBA commissioner, died Wednesday. He was 77 and had suffered a brain hemorrhage Dec. 12. When Stern took over as head of the NBA in 1984, the NBA championship game was such a non-event that a few years earlier no network would even broadcast it live. By the time he stepped down in 2014, the NBA was a $5 billion-a-year global juggernaut and basketball one of the world's most popular sports. "David Stern earned and deserved inclusion in our land of giants," said the National Basketball Players Association, with whom Stern sometimes sparred.

Stern oversaw the creation of the WNBA and the expansion of the NBA to 30 teams from 23. The players helped popularize the sport, of course: When Stern took over, the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, led by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, respectively, had captured the nation's attention, and Michael Jordan joined the NBA a few months after Stern was named commissioner.

Stern is being remembered for his marketing talent and hard-nosed business acumen, but his "most humane, poignant act as commissioner," says Jeff Zillgitt at USA Today, was when he decided to stand by Johnson "when Johnson announced he was HIV-positive on Nov. 7, 1991." Here's how Johnson remembered the moment on Wednesday:

"Nearly 30 years ago, most of the public didn't have a clear understanding of AIDS and HIV," Zillgitt explained, and everyone, including Stern, "thought Johnson was going to die. Stern could have distanced himself and the league from Johnson. He did the opposite. He embraced Johnson, figuratively and literally, and took heat for it." Stern hired experts to educate himself and the league. "Somewhere along the line," Stern told amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, in 2016, "we realized that this was an opportunity to educate the world and to calm down the fear that anyone with HIV should be treated like a leper." Peter Weber

October 25, 2019

The late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has a powerful fan base.

Following his time laying in state at the Capitol, Cummings was remembered Friday at a funeral with high-profile eulogists including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton, and former President Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton got a rousing applause for her comparison of Cummings to the Biblical prophet that shares his name, and then her husband followed up with a suggestion for how listeners should remember the congressmember.

After joking that he was a "warm-up act" for Obama, Clinton recalled Cummings' leadership in the civil rights movement and how he "hauled down to the swimming pool and joined a group to integrate it." He then described how Cummings' voice should resonate with listeners "when we need courage," and when "we don't know if we can believe anymore."

Obama came next, reflecting on eulogies from Cummings daughters and describing how he'd earned the "honorable" title that's usually just given to every elected official. Watch his whole eulogy below. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 25, 2019

Hillary Clinton thinks Elijah Cummings has a lot in common with his Biblical namesake.

A funeral for Cummings, the Maryland Democratic congressmember who died last week, was held Friday in his Baltimore hometown and featured a docket of high-profile eulogists. That included Clinton, who got roaring applause for her comparison of Cummings to "that Old Testament prophet" who shares his name.

In her Friday eulogy, Clinton described how Cummings "weathered storms and earthquakes but never lost his faith." Then, in what seemed like an analogy for Cummings' leadership in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Clinton compared Cummings to the prophet Elijah who "stood against corrupt leadership of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel." That earned Clinton a long round of applause before she went on to describe how Cummings "raised the next generation of leaders" and "even worked a few miracles."

Cummings died at 68 last week after longstanding health issues. He lay in state Thursday in the Capitol, making him the first black lawmaker to have that honor. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 24, 2019

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who died Oct. 17 at age 68, will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will be among the lawmakers to memorialize Cummings at a ceremony before the public is allowed in to pay their respects. The late chairman of the House Oversight Committee will be only the 32nd person to lie in state at the Capitol, and the first black lawmaker awarded the honor. Among the other Americans to lie in state at the Capitol are 12 presidents, most recently George H.W. Bush, plus Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), preacher Billy Graham, and Rosa Parks.

Cummings' funeral will be Friday at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, where he worshipped for four decades. His eulogists will include two former presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, as well as Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. Peter Weber

May 2, 2019

Students at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte received a text alert soon after shots were fired on campus at 5:40 p.m. on Tuesday: "Run, Hide, Fight." The gunman was in Riley Howell's classroom, and "having no place to run and hide, he did the last," Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Wednesday. Howell, 21, ran at the gunman and knocked him off his feet, but it cost him his life; he was one of two people fatally shot, along with Ellis "Reed" Parlier, 19. Four other people were wounded.

"But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed,” Putney said. "Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process. But his sacrifice saved lives," and Howell was "the first and foremost hero" on Tuesday.

CNN's Chris Cuomo thanked Howell on Wednesday night. "Sacrifice — literally, a holy act — and that's what this was: Someone doing something that was bigger than themselves," he said. And according to Riley's family, "this is who he was: A young man who looked out for his young siblings and cousins, who idolized first responders, and was torn between college and volunteering for the military."

After these shootings, we always wonder if there's anything we can do to curb gun violence, Cuomo said. "Riley should be a reminder of what true resolve looks like: You see a problem, you go right at it. ... I'm not lionizing or exaggerating for effect; I can't think of a situation that would be harder than the one this kid faced — and I don't think I could do what he did. But he did it, and that is affirmation of what is possible from people. Not everyone just takes care of themselves. ... Not this kid."

"I'm sorry for his family, their loss, and all of the affected families," Cuomo said. "But I also want to thank Riley Howell for reminding us that we can be so much better than we are."

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