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Thousands turn out to mourn Kobe Bryant as Lakers return to the court in LA

The jerseys of late Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, right, and his daughter Gianna are draped on the seats the two last sat on at Staples Center, prior to the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Los Angeles, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.

The jerseys of late Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, right, and his daughter Gianna are draped on the seats the two last sat on at Staples Center, prior to the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Los Angeles, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AP

The National Basketball Association cancelled a game scheduled for Staples Center on Tuesday between the Lakers and the Los Angles Clippers, citing the need to give the team time to grieve

Tens of thousands of Kobe Bryant fans flooded the grounds around Staples Center on Friday ahead of his former team's first game since his death in a helicopter crash earlier this week that stunned basketball fans in the city and worldwide.

Fans wearing Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers jerseys laid flowers, wrote messages on temporarily erected white walls and shared stories of the 41 year old, who perished along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people on January 26.

Mourners gather outside Staples Center before a Los Angeles Lakers home game to pay respects to Kobe Bryant after a helicopter crash killed the retired basketball star and his daughter Gianna, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 31, 2020.

Mourners gather outside Staples Center before a Los Angeles Lakers home game to pay respects to Kobe Bryant after a helicopter crash killed the retired basketball star and his daughter Gianna, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 31, 2020.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

 

“Kobe Bryant meant a lot to me. I've been watching him for 20 years since he came into the league and I just love him,” said Lakers fan Karina Mendoza. “I want to thank him for everything he has done for us here in L.A.”

“It's a sad and a beautiful day. You can see all the people here and all the Lakers fans. We're like family. Love you Kobe, love you Gigi and all the families.”

Inside the arena, where tributes were expected throughout the game, Kobe and Gianna jerseys were placed on the two courtside seats where the pair sat at their last Lakers game. “I was surprised to see how much it affected me as soon as I got here and saw these makeshift memorials,” said 71-year-old Lakers fan Jim Bendat. “My kids grew up with Kobe and Kobe meant so much to all three of my children. So I sort of experienced all that along with my kids. It's almost like losing a child in a way.”

Singer Usher performs during a memorial prior to an NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Los Angeles.

Singer Usher performs during a memorial prior to an NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Los Angeles.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

Bryant and the eight others died when the helicopter they were taking to a girls' basketball tournament crashed in foggy weather on a hillside northwest of Los Angeles, plunging fans into mourning and sending shockwaves through the sporting world.

Following Bryant's death, the National Basketball Association (NBA) cancelled a game scheduled for Staples Center on Tuesday between the Lakers and the Los Angles Clippers, citing the need to give the team time to grieve.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel this week said the tragedy was bringing the Western Conference-leading Lakers, an already tight-knit group, even closer together and credited team leaders LeBron James and Anthony Davis with helping the players manage their emotions.

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❤ My brother #Mamba4Life #RIPKobe #RIPGiGi

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

 

Practice on Thursday began with some flag football on an outside field near the Lakers' practice facility in what Vogel called “therapeutic” Southern California sunshine. “We are striking a balance of trying to make us feel good,” Vogel said. “Laughter is always a good remedy for something like this when it's appropriate.”

It was not clear if surviving members of Bryant's family would attend Friday's game.

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My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality. To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤

A post shared by Vanessa Bryant (@vanessabryant) on

 

Although Friday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers will mark the first for the Lakers since his death, Bryant was remembered at Staples Center on Sunday night by performers at the Grammy Awards as fans gathered outside the arena in a spontaneous vigil.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said the Feb. 9 Oscars ceremony would include a salute to Bryant.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 12:10:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/thousands-turn-out-to-mourn-kobe-bryant-as-lakers-return-to-the-court-in-la/article30709737.ece

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