The NBA legend, who died Sunday in a helicopter crash at age 41, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! more than any other late-night show -- 15 times between 2007 and last September. “Tonight’s show is going to be different from our usual show,” Kimmel began Monday's show, standing on a dark, empty stage. “We don’t have a studio audience here tonight because going forward with a comedy show didn’t feel right considering what happened yesterday. So I’d like to just speak to you directly.” Kimmel called Bryant's death "a punch in the gut." “I know this might not make sense, but he was just the last person you could have ever imagined something like this happening to,” he said. “He was so strong and handsome and smart and energetic—he was a hero.” Kimmel said Bryant was "a hero in the way Superman is a hero… a real-life superhero, with a costume and everything, walking amongst us.” Kimmel added: "He always showed up to save the day. He wanted to save the day. He had a force of will. He never gave up." Kimmel also alluded to the troubling details from Bryant's past, saying: “I know he wasn’t a perfect person. I understand that. My intention is not to canonize him. Or to make judgments about things I don’t know anything about. But I will say, he loved his family, he worked very hard and he brought a lot of joy to a lot of people in this city. And we’re going to miss him.” Kimmel spent the rest of the show playing old clips of his interviews with Bryant. Watch Kimmel's full tribute.
TOPICS: Jimmy Kimmel, ABC, CBS, NBC, TBS, Conan, Ellen, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Real Housewives of Orange County, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Conan O'Brien, Ellen DeGeneres, James Corden, Jimmy Fallon, Kobe Bryant, Shannon Beador, Late Night