Basketball fans gathered across Los Angeles on Tuesday to remember Kobe Bryant, a year the day after the former NBA superstar died in a helicopter crash with his 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-year playing career.
Bryant, 41, his daughter and fellow passengers died on January 26 last year when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed into a slope in Calabasas in foggy conditions.
In an Instagram post, Bryant’s widow Vanessa published a letter she had received from one of her daughter’s best friends, which she read in part: “You have probably heard this, but if I ever become a mother, I hope my daughter will be just like yours.
Vanessa Bryant added in the post: “I miss my girlfriend and Kob-Kob so much too. I will never understand why / how this tragedy could have happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing people. It still does not seem real.”
Bryant’s former Lakers teammate Pau Gasol was among those who tweeted his memoirs.
‘I miss you hermano’
“I miss you, hermano … not a day goes by that you are not present in what I do,” wrote the Spanish international.
“Your spirit, your drive, your ambition, your love … continue to shine in my life and in many others … I hope you and Gigi smile down and see how strong, sweet and amazing your girls are.”
Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson simply posted a picture of himself in Lakers uniform with Bryant.
“Kobe will always be my Lakers brother for life,” Johnson wrote.
The Lakers, meanwhile, published a black-and-white photograph of Bryant planting a loving kiss on his daughter’s head with the caption: “Family is forever.”
Other Los Angeles sports franchises also paid tribute. The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team posted a photo of the pitching mound at Dodger Stadium adorned with Bryant’s “24” jersey numbers in the Lakers’ colors.
The Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer team also published a pitcher of Bryant and his daughter, with a caption that reflects their nickname: “Mamba & Mambacita forever.
Bryant won five championships with the Lakers during his career before finally retiring in 2016.
Street art monuments
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 its first NBA championship in ten years in October last year.
The team does not play on Tuesday and does not plan a formal tribute to Bryant when they play in Philadelphia.
Lakers star James said last weekend that he was still struggling to come to terms with the death of his close friend.
“Man, it’s a saying that ‘Time heals everything,'” James said. “And as devastating and as tragic as it was and still is for all of us involved in it, only time (will help). And it takes time.
“Everyone has their own grieving process. Everyone understands that everyone is different individually. Everyone will grieve differently.
“All you can do as a friend or loved one or someone in our fraternity or family that we have here in the Lakers organization is put an arm around someone when they need it.”
The National Transportation Safety Board will meanwhile announce the results of its investigation into the fatal crash on 9 February.