LOS ANGELES, USA – Everybody has a Kobe Bryant story.
It comes from the actors whose films spoke about him, to the rivals he inspired, as well as the children of former teammates whom he looked after like a doting dad. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The past week has shown both the breadth of Kobe’s popularity around the world and the depth with which he was loved. Yet for all the personal anecdotes that have filled the days since his tragic demise in a helicopter crash, Bryant’s legacy would be better understood by speaking with the fans gathered outside Staples Center where a makeshift memorial was built by grieving fans.
Rappler visited the since dismantled site on Sunday afternoon, February 2 (Monday, February 3, Philippine time) and spoke to several mourners, many of whom have never even met the NBA legend but were nonetheless moved by the loss of a man that had been a part of their lives for two decades.
Among the estimated hundred of thousands who have visited the shrine that took over downtown Los Angeles was a large contingent from the Filipino community living in the greater Los Angeles area.
As Joan Cano-Vasquez explained, the Pinoys were not merely driven by their fandom of the Lakers, but the place of significance that Kobe occupies in the Filipino basketball community.
“Obviously everyone knows who Kobe Bryant is in the Philippines, but it’s different than it is in the United States” she said, having driven from her home in Pasadena to the LA Live Center.
“When I moved from Manila in the ‘90s, you had people like Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan before Kobe in the US. In the Philippines, basketball has exploded over the last 20 years, and there was no one bigger than [Bryant] during that time. He really was the defining player during the defining generation for basketball back home.”
Bryant stood as one of the most recognizable sports figure of the 21st century. And though he did not posses the physical gifts of heft and height that LeBron James has, his work ethic birthed the “Mamba Mentality.”
“I don’t think it’s necessary for the NBA, or anybody, to step in and designate the way each team chooses to commemorate Kobe” say Ernie, a San Fernando Valley resident who traces his roots in Bohol.
Standing with his young son and daughter – her pigtails flowing over the Lakers’ jersey of a player she likely didn’t see much of, but will undoubtedly hear about as she ages – his reflection seems timed with the dismantling of the memorial.
“The way individual teams and players have grieved and tried to understand what Kobe meant has been really great to see,” Ernie added.
With the final bouquets and messages quietly taken away Sunday night, to be stored and held by the Bryant family upon their request, those still mourning will no longer have a place to congregate.
They will however, always have their stories about Kobe Bryant.