MIAMI — Jennifer Lopez was in the middle of one of her early rehearsals for the Super Bowl LIV halftime show when her fiance, former baseball star Alex Rodriguez, informed her of Kobe Bryant’s tragic passing.
“Alex came to me with tears in his eyes and he was like, ‘You’re not going to believe what happened,'” Lopez said on Thursday. “He was devastated. He knew Kobe very well. They kind of came up together and entered sports around the same time.”
On Sunday, Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were two of nine people to die in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. The former Los Angeles Lakers star’s untimely death has sent a shockwave through the worlds of both sports and entertainment, casting a cloud over the celebratory atmosphere that typically accompanies the Super Bowl.
While Lopez said she knew Bryant more in passing that Rodriguez did, she shared that the 18-time All-Star and his wife, Vanessa, attended the final show of her Las Vegas residency in 2018. She and Shakira also revealed that they will honor Bryant on Sunday when they co-headline the Super Bowl LIV halftime show at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.
“We’ll all be remembering Kobe on Sunday and celebrating life and diversity in this country,” Shakira said. “I’m sure he’d be very proud to see the message we are trying to convey on stage.”
NFL Super Bowl 54 football game halftime performer Jennifer Lopez answers questions at a news conference Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
That message is one of diversity, inner strength, as well as the power of women. In the years after his retirement from basketball in 2016, Bryant became one of the most vocal advocates for women’s basketball — a bond he shared with Gianna, who wanted to play collegiately at UConn, as well as in the WNBA.
“That statement alone to me is empowering,” Lopez said. “When I think of my daughter, when I think of all the little girls in the world, to be able to have that, to see that two Latinas [are] doing this in this country at this time, it’s just very empowering for us.”
As for the details of their performance, which is the first since Jay-Z’s Roc Nation began working with the NFL on the event, Lopez remained tight-lipped. She did, however, make it clear that the Bryant family will be on her mind — just as it has been all week.
“It’s affecting everybody so much because it’s just reminding us how fragile life is and how we have to appreciate every single moment and how we have to love people when they’re here and not wait,” Lopez said. “I think about Vanessa as a mom and losing her best friend and partner and losing her child, you know, how awful that must be for her right now, and I just wanted to send the message and praying God guides her through every moment because she has three more babies to take care of.”