Kobe Was a Giant, Amazed, Thrilled People: This is How Thousands Remember NBA Legend

Published January 27th, 2020 - 10:45 GMT
People gather by the Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020 as they pay tribute to former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant following his death in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles. (AFP/ File Photo)
People gather by the Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020 as they pay tribute to former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant following his death in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles. (AFP/ File Photo)
The 41-year-old Bryant died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

Thousands of fans gathered outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles to mourn the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Mourners paid their respects outside the arena after the 41-year-old Bryant was killed in the crash in Calabasas, California. 

Fans brought flowers and left hats, jerseys and other memorabilia in a tribute to the former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star. 

The sad scene was taking place as the Grammys were also held at the arena Sunday night.  

Mourners also were assembling outside other arenas, including New York's famed Madison Square Garden. The arena's exterior lights were changed to purple and gold to honor Bryant before Sunday night's game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. 

In Denver, a tearful tribute to Bryant was made at the Pepsi Center before the Denver Nuggets played the Houston Rockets. 

Fans also set up a makeshift memorial outside the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, which Bryant founded and where he was reportedly going with his daughter for basketball practice when the crash happened. 

By evening, mourners had also gathered outside Bryant's former high school in Pennsylvania. 

Several dozen people stood silently at Lower Merion High School, in Ardmore near Philadelphia, where Bryant had attended as a youth. 

The cause of the crash is under investigation. A flight plan indicated the helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9.06am PST and the last signal was received from the aircraft at 9.45am. It was expected to land at San Gabriel Valley Airport in El Monte. 

Initial reports claimed five people had been killed, but the death toll was raised to nine - including the pilot, named locally as Ara Zobayan. Among those also killed was John Altobelli, a baseball coach at Orange County College, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa. Girls basketball coach Christina Mauser was also killed in crash. 

Kobe and Gianna are survived by his wife Vanessa and their three other daughters - Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born last summer.

A heartbreaking video of the deceased father-daughter duo attending a basketball game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Brooklyn Nets on December 21 resurfaced soon after the crash.

Bryant appears to be teaching Gianna - a budding basketball star herself - a thing or two about the game while sitting courtside at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Gianna frequently shared photos of herself on the court on social media.

News of the NBA legend's death sent shockwaves in the sports world and beyond - marking an abrupt ending to one of most indelible public lives in modern American history.

President Donald Trump tweeted condolences to Bryant's family members, saying that the NBA legend was 'just getting started in life'. 

Former vice president Joe Biden observed a moment of silence while attending an NAACP event in Iowa. 

Bryant was widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

The Philadelphia native was a first-round pick in the 1996 draft and spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, winning five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP titles and 18 All-Star titles before retiring in 2016.

Bryant was on 15 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Defensive Teams and represented the USA at the Olympics in 2008 and 2008.

He was the first guard in NBA history to play at least 20 seasons and was the first and only player in Lakers history to have both of his jersey numbers - 8 and 24 - retired.

He is currently ranked fourth for all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring.

The impact he had on fans was readily apparent in the hours after the news broke with numerous mourners wearing his No. 8 and No. 14 outside several arenas, including the Staples Center, just hours before the Grammy Awards were being held Sunday evening.

Some fans called for the show to be cancelled in honor of the NBA great. 

Bryant's death came one day after he was passed by Lakers forward LeBron James for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

The unseated star congratulated James on Twitter during the Lakers' 108-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

James had written 'Mamba 4 Life' and '8/24 KB' on his sneakers in gold ink before the game to show respect for Bryant.

'It's another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school,' James told reporters in Bryant’s home town of Philadelphia on Saturday. 'Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration.

'It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So, just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it's very humbling.'

James is just one of the people that Bryant inspired, and judging by the outpouring of sorrow on the streets of Los Angeles, he is in considerable company.

'Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court — and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved,' Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti wrote on Twitter.

'Kobe was not only an icon in the sports arena, he was a man of the world and touched so many lives and communities in the most positive ways,' said Hall of Famer Larry Bird.

'His star was continuing to rise every day and he knew no limits because of his many intellectual and creative talents and desire to give back to others – his passion for the game, for his family and for others was apparent in everything he accomplished.'


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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