By Agence France-Presse
An outpouring of grief over the death of Kobe Bryant continued on Monday as thousands of fans gathered by murals of the NBA legend’s face and brought tributes of basketballs, sneakers and candles to the arena where he made his name.
“Kobe, Kobe, Kobe!” chanted a crowd milling about in LA Live, an entertainment district next to the Staples Center, the home court of Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers.
“MVP, MVP, MVP!” people also shouted a day after the 41-year-old Bryant died in a helicopter crash along with seven other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
At noon, radio stations observed a minute and eight seconds of silence — eight for the jersey number he wore early in his career. Later it would be 24.
At one corner of the plaza, people used chalk or markers to write tributes to Bryant, such as “Kobe forever”, right on the pavement.
Jonathan Arroyo, 23, arrived early in the morning and wrote MVP many times on the plaza grounds.
“He just meant the world to me. I wasn’t actually really into basketball until Kobe did his thing. Thank God I saw him play. He is my MVP until the day I die,” Arroyo said.
Anthony Jackson, 62, said Bryant, widely regarded as one of the sport’s best players ever, was all about hard work — with no bragging.
“What he achieved in life, didn’t take anything for granted, and he was just being a good person,” said Jackson, who also expressed hope that a memorial service will be held at the Staples Center.
Cynthia Graham, 48, said she used to make sacrifices to see Bryant play.
“I used to cut work just to go to a Lakers game and my check would get docked, but it was worth it. If I got my check docked to see a game, trust me, I’ll do it back again to get to his funeral,” said Graham.
There is still no word on funeral arrangements for Bryant and his daughter.
Fans also gathered at the Mamba Sports Academy, which Bryant founded in Thousand Oaks, an hour from the Staples Center. Its name plays on his nickname, the “Black Mamba”.
There, the scene was also one of tears, silence, flowers and candles.
Shain Hrehniy, who works in an Apple store, cried as he carried his son in his arms.
“I’m just heartbroken by what happened. Heartbroken for his family. I wanted to bring my son so that he can see his dad’s favorite basketball player,” said Hrehniy.
“The fact that Kobe Bryant was here and what he’s doing for the kids and the community. This is what this place is for. It’s because he was doing all the stuff he’s doing for the community,” said sound engineer Roscoe Gray.
“So I have to come here and just pay tribute and get the energy. I’m going to come here every day now. Just every day stop here to get that type of energy and remind myself — you can be whatever you want to be as long as you push yourself.”
Jose Garcia, a caregiver, said he got to see young Gianna Bryant play basketball a few times. Bryant himself used to say she showed much promise.
“Always thought that I would see her grow up. And actually, it was really inspiring to see her,” Garcia said.