Entertainment and sports stars came together to remember Michael Jackson on the MTV News special "A Celebration of Michael Jackson on MTV" on Friday (June 26). The special — including several Video Music Awards performances as well as candid moments he spent on the network — brought together Kobe Bryant, Liza Minnelli and Usher, among others, to pay tribute to the departed pop icon.
"I think it's probably deeper than people would expect, actually," Kobe Bryant said. "Being out here in L.A., I had numerous conversations, just over the phone and also at his house, just talking about work ethic and paying attention to details. He was extremely inspirational for me because he helped me understand that it's OK to be different. And when I say different I mean different in the sense of being obsessed with your craft ... and working your tail off and being consumed by what you do. He helped mentor me in that department. I think we lost an absolutely brilliant, brilliant mind and just a genuine nice person."
Fabolous, who has sampled Jackson's music in his songs, said he learned a lot from watching Jackson as a kid. "I was just very disappointed the whole day ... I grew up on Michael Jackson," he said. "One of my first albums my mom bought me was Thriller, so just to see him pass was like a big loss to me and everyone who grew up around me."
JC Chasez, who performed with Jackson along with 'NSYNC at the 2001 VMAs, described the show as "a childhood dream come true." "It was kind of like my life had come full-circle at that point. First you dream about being able to dance like him and the next thing you know you're standing next to him while you're dancing. As a professional, you want to reach the top of your game. Then you find yourself on the MTV awards and you share that moment with him. He's a language. He's a piece of vernacular when you talk about dancing, singing ... entertainment."
Sheryl Crow toured with Jackson for two years in the late '80s, and she was one of the people lucky enough to get to know the personal side of Jackson. "I did a couple of duets with him. He reached out to me on a couple of occasions and invited me to come up to his hotel room to watch movies," she recalled. "A big room with a couple of bodyguards and us throwing popcorn across the room at each other. He was just very childlike and loved to practical joke ... very childlike and innocent and then he'd walk out onstage and you'd see this magnetic, very strong artistic talent up there."
Teddy Riley, who worked with Jackson on both "Dangerous" and "Remember the Time," is still reeling from the loss, but feels honored to have had a chance to work with the King of Pop. "Such a huge impact he had. A lot of the major people out there, they've grown up to Michael Jackson., and I've grown up to Michael Jackson, and it's been a dream to work with him ... he made my dreams come true. It's a big impact and I think everyone out there is going to miss him," he said.
Liza Minnelli, who called in to the show along with Usher, remembered the days they'd spend together. "We would hang together when we were in New York. We would go to [dancer and choreographer] Martha Graham's. I would take him to Martha Graham and he'd say, 'Oh, I got to learn that,' and we'd run upstairs to practice. Anyway, I loved him."
Usher, who was significantly influenced by Jackson, added, "It's pretty hard right now, man. Michael Jackson transcended culture. He transcended love, man. He changed the barrier of life and the way we looked at things."
One woman who has definitely used some of the Jackson aesthetic in her own career, Ciara, admits that MJ was her biggest inspiration. "He was part of the reason why for me," she said. "Whenever someone asks me who inspires me to do what I do, I always say Michael. That's it for me. He's everything to me. He's really a part of the reason why. He's going to be remembered in so many ways for me. I feel it's important for me to continue to let my generation know how important he was to music."
MTV will be paying tribute to MJ throughout the weekend with music videos, exclusive performances and calls and tweets from celebrity admirers and friends. For everything we've got on the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit "Michael Jackson Remembered."
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