Fans across Los Angeles and other parts of the world are grieving after the death of retired Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant who were killed in a helicopter accident with seven others on Sunday, Jan. 26.
I was shocked by the news myself and I still don’t want to believe it happened. It felt like it wasn’t real when it was first reported, it felt surreal, like it was all a bad dream and I just couldn’t believe what was happening. But it was real. I am not alone because all of Los Angeles and Lakers fans everywhere are grieving too.
The news hit me hard because I grew up cheering on the Lakers, watching Kobe Bryant win back-to-back National Basketball Association championships and going to see him at a Lakers parade, so it hurt to find out he and his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others passed away so tragically.
Fans are mourning the death of Kobe Bryant who was an inspiration to people in and outside of sports.
Fans were left shocked and even former teammates, players in the NBA and across all sports couldn’t wrap their heads around what had just happened.
Shaquille O’Neal, a former teammate and friend of Kobe Bryant, said on Twitter, “There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of losing my niece Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. I’M SICK RIGHT NOW.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who played with the Lakers from 1975-1989 said, “most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players. But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete.”
Fernando Ruiz from South Gate, California, who came down to Mamba Sports Academy to pay his respects, said, “[Kobe Bryant] was all over the news, but I was working to be honest with you. And one of my buddies, he came down, he’s like ‘Hey you heard that Kobe Bryant passed away right?’”
Ruiz said he and other people who looked up to Kobe Bryant said he obviously didn’t know him personally, but he looked up to him and that’s why he stands out.
Ruiz, who has a daughter of his own, said, “it’s pretty, pretty tough” hearing that Gianna Bryant was with him.
When the reports started trending on Twitter, what broke me was hearing about Gianna Bryant because fans could see they had a close bond as father and daughter.
“I literally had to Google it like if it was real,” fan Hannah Licuidine said. “I’ve been playing basketball my whole life, like my dad who gave me the ball, but it was watching Kobe that made me love the sport.”
She also added that Kobe Bryant inspired her to keep playing despite her height and gender, and made her love the game.
“Life is short, so we should cherish each other, tomorrow’s not promised,” Licuidine said.
I shed tears for a moment just looking at the candles, flowers, and pictures outside Mamba Sports Academy, where I went to pay my respects.
It was emotional being there. The scene was quiet and I was looking at all the flowers and pictures of Kobe and Gianna Bryant together which made me revisit memories of when they were together for his fifth NBA Championship.
Fans from L.A. didn’t know how to react to the news, some were left hurt and didn’t know what to do.
“I started crying. This is a day I’ll never forget,” 19-year-old Lakers fan Sam Krutonog told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s bigger than basketball.”
Fans left flowers, candles, jerseys, teddy bears, balloons and posters at Staples Center, Mamba Sports Academy and where the crash happened in memoriam of Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, and the seven others who were killed in the tragic accident.