LOS ANGELES, Calif — Tens of thousands of Kobe Bryant fans flocked to Los Angeles this past weekend ahead of the late NBA star and his daughter, Gianna's, Celebration of Life service at the Staples Center on Monday.
Bryant, his daughter and seven others were killed Jan. 26, 2020 when their helicopter crashed in the Calabasas hills while heading to a basketball game in Newbury Park. Keri and John Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser, Gianna's teammates, 14-year-old Alyssa Altobelli and 13-year-old Payton Chester, and pilot Ara Zobayan were also killed in the crash.
Since the crash, hundreds of murals have gone up across Los Angeles County, including a popular one on South La Brea created by French-born artist Thierry Guetta, a.k.a Mr. Brainwash, who paid tribute to both Bryant and Gianna, as well as the seven others killed in the crash.
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On Sunday and Monday, ABC10 spoke with fans of Bryant about what he meant to them, his legacy, and what his loss will mean to the community.
"It's been tough. I mean, Kobe Bryant, just like everyone else, he was my hero — my childhood hero, you know. When I first heard the news, I was just in shock. It took me a couple of days to process it. It hit me hard. This is my first time back in LA, and we just came from the game. [Seeing these murals] was something that I wanted to do. I’ve seen them online, and they’re beautiful. I feel a little emotional about it. I’m still kind of processing it. It’s tough."
"Everybody has been doing such a great job putting these memorials and the tributes together. All of the support from all of the fans after the heartache that everybody was going through — it's pretty amazing to see how we all pulled through, because I believe that when somebody loses a life, we need to live for those who didn’t get to. And, I believe Kobe left a good legacy for us to continue that."
"It's still hard to process that this is all real. It doesn’t feel like real life, honestly. I don’t know when it’s going to truly hit me that this is actually a reality, but the truth being an everyday thing is tough. I came all the way out here from Maryland, and when the news hit me, I just went to a halt. I went silent and didn’t want to talk to anybody. …. I went to his final game, the one when he scored 60 points. Probably one of the greatest live events that I’ve ever been to in my life, and I’ll forever cherish that. I went through the pictures and the videos just the other day, just taking in the sights and the sounds and the good times. It was just an unbelievable day."
"I thought about wrapping it after everything happened with Kobe and Gigi. I just felt like I wanted to be a part of this whole tragedy that happened. I’d seen all kinds of murals all over town and I was like, 'I have this car and I can do something with it.' So I did. … [My memory of Kobe] is not from the court. It’s from looking at him — one time I saw him on YouTube saying some stuff about the Mamba Mentality that affected my life. I kind of have an image of that interview that he had, which was really, really good."
"We came out here because it was a great time to come out to Los Angeles and enjoy the festivities... although we weren't close to him, we felt close to him, because of his tenacity to do events in the communities, not just for his family, but for families overall."
"I just felt like I had to come here, because Kobe was my favorite player ever since I was a little girl, and I’ve always been a huge Laker fan. When I found out that he died and Gianna, my heart just broke and I couldn’t stop crying and crying. I'm still in disbelief. I still feel like he's still here. … I’ve seen him play so many times growing up. One of my favorite memories is probably his final game because he scored 60 points and that was crazy."
"The Lakers for me and my family is one of those things that, when my dad passed away, helped us cope a little bit. We could get away from it all and just watch the Lakers play. It was something that, growing up, was nice to watch. Losing somebody like Kobe, someone I’ve watched since '96... Being [at the memorial] was amazing."
"My favorite memory of Kobe is when he won his fourth ring without Shaq. People said he couldn’t do it, but he proved to the world and did it twice. That one just meant the most. He proved to everyone that he could do it again. People doubted him. It’s sad, being a Laker fan — a diehard Laker fan — it’s sad to not watch Kobe playing. After he retired, I couldn’t even watch Laker games like that."
"Kobe just relates to us so much and in so many different ways. It's huge. The Hispanic community loves this guy, and one of them happens to be me. I mean, I named my son after him, and I have him tattooed right here on my back. I’m not a person who became a fan yesterday. No, I've been a fan his whole career. I mean, we just got up here, right now. We got up at 3 o’clock in the morning and drove from Vegas just to be here today. I didn't want to miss it. I couldn’t miss it. It feels empty. LA is not going to be the same."
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