Fans all over the world are mourning the death of Kobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash Sunday.
Bryant, a Philadelphia native who played basketball at Lower Merion High School, was a hugely popular figure all over the world.
His death sparked reaction from the basketball world and beyond, from sports legends Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, to former President Barack Obama, current President Donald Trump and other heads of state.
Bryant’s tenacity, competitiveness and excellence on the court inspired basketball fans all over the world.
He was popular in countries as far away as China, where basketball rivals soccer as the most popular sport.
Yi Jianlian, a professional Chinese basketball player, took to China’s Weibo micro-blogging site to praise Bryant for teaching him the value of persistence.
“Thank you! Kobe! Hope father and daughter continue to enjoy basketball in heaven! We will always remember you!,” wrote Yi, who signed with six different NBA teams, including briefly the Lakers in 2016. “Rest in peace to the legend,” he added.
Bryant’s playing appearances included the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics won by the U.S. But his popularity in China continued beyond the Olympics. At a 2013 Lakers preseason game against Golden State in Beijing, the arena rang out with chants of “Kobe! Kobe!” even though the injured superstar had not even suited up for the game.
Many fans took to China’s social media to commemorate his death, accompanied by photos of Bryant and his daughter with the letters R.I.P.
“For our generation, our memories of the NBA begin with Jordan, and move through Kobe and Yao Ming. You were a part of our youth. Already missing the bright sun of Kobe. Go well,” commentator “ZhanHao” wrote on Weibo.
“Your willpower has inspired a generation. Thank you,” wrote “Teacher Kai Ting.”
“I hope there is basketball in heaven. Kobe just went to another world to play basketball with his daughter,” wrote “Cici’s green paper.”
At the Australian Open, Americans Coco Gauff and Caty McNally wore written tributes to Bryant on their shoes during their doubles match. Romania’s Simona Halep said Bryant’s death was a “huge loss for the world, for the sport.” Australian tennis legend Rod Laver tweeted he was “terribly sad to wake up to this news.”
In Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted that her “thoughts go out to the Bryant family & the families of all those who lost loved ones today.”
“Kobe inspired a generation of young Taiwanese basketball players, & his legacy will live on through those who loved him,” Tsai wrote.
Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo noted that Bryant had been a frequent visitor to the Philippines. “He was well-loved by his Filipino fans,” Panelo said in a statement.
“On the hard court, he was a sight to behold with his dexterity and accuracy in sinking that ball in the ring. He was a master of his craft. The basketball world has lost one of its legendary greats,” Panelo said. “The Palace extends its deepest condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, loved ones and fans around the globe who Kobe left behind. We share in their grief.”
In Japan, Tetsunori Tanimoto, an official at the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association, expressed his deep condolences for Kobe Bryant’s death.
“He helped make Kobe Beef known throughout the world,” he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press Monday.
Kobe got his name, the legend goes, after his father ate Kobe beef during a visit to Japan and loved the taste.
Bryant not only inspired people with what he did on the court but also what he did off the court.
Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, thanked Bryant for championing the Women’s National Basketball Association and opening doors for female sports journalists like herself.
His transition from basketball player to businessman was also an inspiration. Just two years after retiring from basketball, he won an Oscar for Best Animated Short film.
He was admired for his determination and dedicated to whatever he did. Kobe Bryant inspired greatness. He will be deeply missed.