Fans “still taking it in” after death of Kobe Bryant

Zoe Collins Rath
Medill Reports

In the wake of the deaths of Los Angeles Laker great Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in California on Jan. 26, people all over the world are sharing their condolences and paying their respects.

“We want to pay tribute to a man that impacted a lot on the world,” said Deena Jefferson.

Jefferson is from Bellingham, Washington, and is a member of the Lummi tribe. Basketball is an important part of Lummi culture and on Monday night outside of the United Center, she was writing messages on the building in memory of Bryant before the Bulls game with the San Antonio Spurs.

The impact of Bryant reverberated everywhere.  Teams were taking eight-second violations to honor Bryant’s number when he first started playing professional basketball and 24-second violations to honor Bryant’s number after his old jersey number 24 became available to play in again. Outside of basketball arenas, people all around the world held vigils, shared their stories on social media and where doing things similar to what Jefferson was doing outside of the United Center.

“I think it’s respect to Kobe and what he meant to basketball and what he did even if he never was on the [Chicago] Bulls,” said Chicago fan Alberto Perez.

In his Bryant No. 8 jersey, Perez was taking pictures of the messages written in chalk on the sidewalk and side of the United Center. He even participated in taking pictures of the normally red banners outside the building, changed to purple banners to honor Bryant and the memories Bryant gave to the world while playing for the Lakers for 20 years.

“I remember when he tore his Achilles and shot his free throws,” he said. “To be that type of competitor with an injury like that, he is a great.”

“He just showed you what a competitor was all about and you don’t have many of them come across you,” said Curtis Hall, a Chicago native.

Hall, a fan of the Sacramento Kings, said he always felt sad when the Lakers would eliminate the Kin

gs and he and others would say Bryant was trying to be like Michael Jordan. But over time, Hall grew to respect Bryant as a player because he really was trying to be like Michael Jordan.

“I’m still not fully 100% taking this in yet, but I will,” Hall said.

To so many around the world, Kobe Bryant was more than a basketball player and people are still stunned with disbelief after his death. The news spread all corners of the world and all people felt it, especially young basketball players who were looked up to Bryant.

“A lot of inspiration of a man who used his hands to work wonders and we send out much love,” said Jefferson.

The legacy of Bryant on the court will live on in young players and in the memories of people who will share stories. But the most important thing that some people will take with them is how Bryant was able to show the world that you can be more than just what people expect.

Photo at top: People express their sorrow over the passing of Kobe Bryant with message on the sidewalk outside the United Center.