Switching from the Grammys on CBS to Kobe Bryant tributes on ESPN was a dizzying experience Sunday night.
Bryant's shocking death in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles and the music awards show at the arena where Bryant played with the Lakers registered the kaleidoscope of American entertainment/sports/media culture.
Bryant, his 13-year-daughter, Gianna, and seven others were killed when the helicopter crashed in a mountainous area near Los Angeles. Along with shock and grief at the deaths of the 41-year-old Bryant and his daughter, the crash was one of those archetypal stories of hubris and the limitations of technology.
For years, Bryant had reveled in his celebrity status by traveling by helicopter across the sprawling metro area, flying above the traffic-clogged freeways. But on this Sunday morning, his helicopter couldn't overcome the dense fog that had grounded other craft.
Etched by pain and sadness, it was one of those Los Angeles stories of fame and mortality, unfolding upon the city's shifting neighborhoods and varied geography.
As the Grammys commenced at the Staples Center, thousands of Bryant fans gathered outside the arena, raising makeshift shrines to the basketball god who had given the city five NBA championships. Regular fans outside the arena chanted "thank you Kobe" as the musical stars inside paid tribute to the slain NBA icon. For one evening, the city's divisions were forgotten.
Other classic themes emerged: Redemption, hard work and sacrifice, fatherhood, family, sports and tragedy. The consolation of words and music.
The two channels showed a spectrum of media, sports and musical celebrities, united in grief for Bryant and his daughter. From Billie Eilish, Little Naz X, Lizzo, Willie Nelson, John Legend and Alisha Keys to Tiger Woods, Robin Roberts, Jerry West, LeBron James, Michael Wilbon and Stephen A. Smith, the faces flashed by on the TV screen.
It was one of those momentous days that transfixed the nation.