LOS ANGELES, Jan 27 — Basketball fans gathered across Los Angeles on Tuesday to remember Kobe Bryant, one year to the day after the former NBA superstar perished in a helicopter crash with daughter Gianna and seven others.
Fans laid flowers and Los Angeles Lakers memorabilia at a makeshift memorial outside the Staples Center, the arena where Bryant became a city icon during a two-decade playing career.
Bryant, 41, his daughter and fellow passengers died on January 26 last year when the helicopter they were travelling in slammed into a hillside in Calabasas in foggy conditions.
In a post on Instagram, Bryant’s widow Vanessa published a letter she had received from one of her daughter’s best friends which read in part: “You have probably heard this, but if I ever become a mom, I hope my daughter turns out exactly as yours did.”
Vanessa Bryant added in the post: “I miss my baby girl and Kob-Kob so much, too. I will never understand why/how this tragedy could’ve happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn’t seem real.”
Bryant’s former Lakers team-mate Pau Gasol was among those who tweeted their messages of remembrance.
‘I miss you hermano’
“I miss you, hermano... not a day goes by that you are not present in what I do,” the Spanish international wrote.
“Your spirit, your drive, your ambition, your love... continues to shine in my life and in many others. ... I hope you and Gigi are smiling down seeing how strong, sweet and amazing your girls are.”
Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson simply posted a picture of himself in Lakers uniform alongside Bryant.
“Kobe will always be my Lakers brother for life,” Johnson wrote.
The Lakers meanwhile posted a black and white photograph of Bryant planting an affectionate kiss on his daughter’s head, with a caption: “Family is forever.”
Other Los Angeles sporting franchises also paid tribute. The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team posted a photo of the pitching mound at Dodger Stadium emblazoned with Bryant’s “24” jersey number in Lakers colours.
The Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer team also posted a pitcher of Bryant and his daughter, with a caption reflecting their nicknames: “Mamba & Mambacita forever.
Bryant won five championships with the Lakers during his career before finally retiring in 2016.
Since his death, dozens of large-scale murals have appeared on walls throughout Los Angeles.
An emotional 2020 season for the Lakers culminated with LeBron James leading the team to their first NBA championship in 10 years last October.
The team are not playing on Tuesday, and not planning a formal tribute to Bryant when they play in Philadelphia.
Lakers star James said last weekend he was still struggling to come to terms with his close friend’s death.
“Man, it’s a saying that says, ‘Time heals all,’” James said. “And as devastating and as tragic as it was and still is to all of us involved with it, only time (will help). And it takes time.
“Everyone has their own grieving process. Everyone understands that everyone individually is different. Everyone is going to grieve differently.
“All you can do as a friend or a loved one or anyone in our brotherhood or our familyhood that we have here in the Lakers organization is to put an arm around someone when they need it.”
The National Transportation Safety Board meanwhile is due to announce the results of its investigation into the deadly crash on February 9. — AFP