LOS ANGELES – News of Kobe Bryant's death had Grammy attendees reeling on Sunday.

Flags were at half-staff at Staples Center, where Bryant long played for the Lakers, as guests began trickling in. Bryant's face, along with the message "In loving memory,” covered digital billboards that wrapped the surrounding buildings at L.A. Live.

A somber Ryan Seacrest opened E!'s Grammy's red carpet with a tribute to Bryant. "His loss will be felt even more deeply tonight at a place he considered home," Seacrest told the camera. "It's unthinkable," Seacrest said. "He was on the phone with me a few months ago, talking about the love of being a father, talking about his daughters so pridefully, and I think so many artists here tonight will be thinking about this, and wanting to share their stories."

As of 3 p.m. PT, 1,000 fans had quietly gathered around a memorial at Staples, where memorabilia included a signed basketball, hundreds of lit candles and red rose petals spelling ‘Kobe’ and ‘Gia,’ in honor of Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna who also died in the helicopter crash. A woman could be heard crying loudly near a barricade.

Fan Jerry Montero, 53, from LA, cried as he knelt in the front row of the memorial for almost 30 minutes. He finally stood and yelled, “We love you, Kobe!”

“It’s not just Kobe,” he’s mourning, Montero said. “It’s everyone who was in that crash. It’s terrible. But what got me was the thought of Kobe being with his daughter on that helicopter, hugging her and telling her everything is going to be OK.” Tears fell down his face. “And they are OK. They are in heaven. He was a wonderful human being.”

'He meant so much more than basketball'

Joshua Gonzalez, 24, held a heavy black framed photo of a Game 4 championship above his head. "It's heavy. But if Kobe can play with a broken finger, I can handle this," said the lifelong Lakers fan, before beginning a "MVP" chant. "He meant so much more than basketball to me. That Mamba mindset he had. I apply it to everything."

Fan Michael Aparicio, 27, wearing a purple Lakers jacket and a No. 24 T-shirt, pushed his five-month-old daughter in her stroller through the crowd. “We’re paying tributes to one of the greats,” he said, placing flowers at the impromptu Staples Center memorial. "It’s about showing respect. He gave his life to the Lakers. We wanted to be here.”

Kelan Parker, 21, from Southern California says when he heard the news from a cousin he checked Twitter, thinking Bryant's death was a hoax. He arrived at Staples to pay his respects. “He’s been a Laker his whole career so it just hurts SoCal, because it’s all we’ve known growing up for the past 20 years,” said Parker, adding that he thinks the Grammys needs to take time out of show to pay tribute to Bryant.

Victor Rodriguez, a 27-year-old youth counselor from LA, weaved through the crowd carrying a bouquet of purple and gold carnations, looking for a place to put them. "I want to pay my respects to my favorite player," he said. "He brought me so much joy. My mom was playing the TV and I heard the news. I was so shocked, I just started crying."

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Kobe and Gia written in red rose petals in memorial. Surrounded by lit candles. Some people are kneeling silently on the side. <a href="https://t.co/Ta2OqqspCL">pic.twitter.com/Ta2OqqspCL</a></p>&mdash; Bryan Alexander (@BryAlexand) <a href="https://twitter.com/BryAlexand/status/1221589388267671553?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 27, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

'We are in his house'

Before starting the non-televised pre-ceremony, interim Recording Academy interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr acknowledged losing Bryant. "Since we are in his house, I ask you to join us for a moment of silence," he said.

On the red carpet, Rick Ross, who is nominated for rap song for "Gold Roses," said he's hoping someone pays tribute to Bryant during the show.

“Just getting the news of Kobe Bryant, I want to see someone most definitely celebrate the legacy of Black Mamba tonight, because that’s what he would want to see. The true champion would want to see his legacy celebrated and it’s somebody’s responsibility to do that. We should recognize his greatness. (It’s) a great loss.”

YBN Cordae, who’s nominated for best rap album and best rap song, said everyone is in mourning today. 

“Everybody’s a fan of Kobe Bryant," said Cordae on the red carpet. "You shoot a paper ball in the trash can, we all say (‘Kobe’). The Mamba mentality — keep going, overwork, beat your best— is something that everybody should aspire to live by. Rest in peace.”

Accepting best music film on behalf of Beyonce, who won for her Netflix movie "Homecoming," producer Steve Pamon is the first to reference Bryant's death during the pre-show, which had hit like a shockwave just an hour prior. "Rest in peace, Kobe, we love you," he said onstage.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, contemporary instrumental album nominee, said the mood at the Grammys feels “a little bit different" after news of Bryant's death.

"The air is a little heavier," he said. "I bleed purple and gold. Obviously today is a sad day because we lost a legend and my favorite athlete of all time."

News of his death permeated the pre-show, where attendees began filling the Microsoft Theater ahead of the live show. 

“You can still see him in the back of your head crushing people on the court," said recording artist Cecil Parker.