The late NBA superstar/producer and acting legend bookended the package, which was introduced by Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg. He praised of the group: “Legends and icons. Our friends and fellow artists, all who have inspired and touched us.”
The package began with a picture and quote from Bryant: “Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going.” Producers of the Academy Awards reportedly made last-minute changes to the In Memoriam tribute in order to honor Douglas, who closed the segment. It had also been reported that larger tributes would be paid to the late stars.
Billie Eilish and brother Finneas O’Connell performed a cover of The Beatles’ “Yesterday” during the segment.
Douglas, also a three-time Oscar nominee, received the lifetime achievement Oscar in 1996. Bryant became an Oscar winner in 2018 when his short film Dear Basketball took home the best animated short film prize.
Bryant tributes also came earlier in the night, with the Hair Love filmmakers dedicating their animated short win to the late athlete (“May we all have a second act as great as his was,” said writer/director and former NFL pro Matthew A. Cherry) and Spike Lee wearing a Bryant-inspired tuxedo to Sunday’s show, and stepping on stage to introduce the best director award only moments before the tribute. The director of the 2009 documentary Kobe: Doin’ Work sported a custom purple Gucci suit with gold trim and patches of Bryant’s jersey number, 24, stitched on the lapels and on the back of the jacket.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died Jan. 26 when their helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. The NBA honored Bryant and the victims during the first home game thereafter in Los Angeles; every seat at Staples Center featured a replica of one of Bryant’s jerseys, and LeBron James, Usher and Boyz II Men led a courtside tribute. And at the Jan. 26 Grammys, which took place at Laker’s home the Staples Center, Bryant was remembered by host Alicia Keys and in several tributes, as well as by the fans who came out to the venue in droves.
Douglas, after leading one of the most indelible and indefatigable careers in Hollywood history, died Feb. 5 in Los Angeles. “It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” said son Michael Douglas. “To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the Golden Age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.”
The 2020 Oscars aired live on ABC from the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood.