Kobe Bryant death: Vigils held as Los Angeles pays tribute to basketball hero
The city of Los Angeles has paid tribute to basketball star Kobe Bryant with vigils and tributes after his shock death in a helicopter crash.
The 41-year-old died alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people in the accident in Southern California on Sunday morning.
Chants of “Kobe” could be heard during a vigil at the Staples Centre, home to the Los Angeles Lakers – the team Bryant played for for his entire glittering career.
A shrine to the five-time NBA champion has been set up outside the stadium, complete with candles, flowers and photographs from fans.
Former elementary school basketball coach Miguel Lopez was one of the thousands at the vigil and told the PA news agency: “Feeling the energy around for someone that truly meant a lot to this city was indescribable.
“This is a guy that I looked up to ever since I was a child … He’s had such a huge impact on my life and he will never be forgotten.
“Not only was he beloved here in Los Angeles, but his passing was felt globally. He will be missed.”
The light towers surrounding Los Angeles International Airport were illuminated in purple and gold on Sunday, in homage to the colours of Bryant’s Lakers jersey.
Airline pilot Kenneth Eisner, 37, filmed the pillars and told PA: “Kobe was my favourite NBA player. Los Angeles loves him and he will be missed.”
Los Angeles City Hall was similarly lit up in the famous purple.
“Lights for a legend,” tweeted LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The Lakers’ local NBA rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, were one of a number of teams to hold poignant shot clock violations – pausing for 24 seconds and eight seconds in-game as a nod to Bryant’s shirt numbers.
A video shared hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter shows a dejected-looking fan sitting alone with his head bowed in an LA street, holding a Lakers basketball.
The caption to the viral footage reads: “Want to know what Kobe Bryant meant to LA? My neighbour who loves playing basketball has been out here like this for a good 20 minutes with his Lakers basketball.”
The Lakers’ usually-busy social media accounts have gone quiet since the news broke on Sunday.
However, on Instagram, Bryant’s former Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal shared a photo of the final messages he sent to his friend.
“This first picture were messages from THIS MORNING,” O’Neal posted.
“I wish I didn’t sleep in so I could’ve talked to you … I can’t even think straight right now.
“I love you man … thank you for everything you’ve done … for this city, for the basketball world, and for me … I won’t let you down … you always counted on me and lifted me up.”