Chinese fans mourn Kobe's passing after accident

2020-01-29 10:22:16China Daily Editor : Feng Shuang ECNS App Download

Basketball legend Kobe Bryant's untimely death has drawn an outpouring of shock and grief across China, prompting a wave of tributes to the former NBA superstar from the country's sports community and beyond.

Just four months after welcoming Bryant to their country during his latest Asian trip, basketball fans in China are now mourning this week after learning that the former Los Angeles Lakers' 18-time NBA All Star had died at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash on Sunday in California.

Bryant was among nine people on board, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who all died in the tragedy that occurred in poor visibility amid heavy fog.

Within hours of his death, the legendary United States' cager's passing triggered widespread sorrow in China during the traditional Spring Festival, with ordinary fans and sports and entertainment celebrities mourning the late player on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media platform, where Bryant had nearly 10 million followers.

Underneath a post on his Weibo account — a short video greeting his friends in China uploaded on the eve of the Lunar New Year — fans have left over 122,000 emotional messages to bid farewell while expressing their collective grief.

The hashtag "Kobe has passed" had been viewed 4.8 billion times as of Tuesday afternoon, with some of China's best-known sports celebrities paying tribute.

Yi Jianlian, captain of China's national basketball team and a former Lakers' player, remembered Bryant as a role model who inspired him through tough career challenges.

"We both suffered nagging injuries. Whereas I took a month off, you didn't rest a single day," Yi posted on his Weibo on Monday.

"I've learned perseverance from the days working side by side with you. Thanks! Kobe! May you and your daughter continue enjoying the game of basketball in heaven. We will always remember you," said Yi, who spent a short stint with the Lakers during the 2016-17 preseason before returning to the Chinese Basketball Association.

Drafted 13th overall in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets and immediately traded to the Lakers, Bryant was a core player on five of the Lakers' championship rosters (2000-2002, 2009-2010), a two-time NBA Finals MVP and the 2008 NBA MVP. He retired in 2016 due to multiple injuries after spending 20 seasons in the league — all with the Lakers.

Three years after his retirement, Bryant proved he remained one of the most popular US sports icons in China during his trip to the world's most populous country in September, when he visited as an event ambassador for the FIBA World Cup held in China amid rousing fan reaction wherever he appeared.

With his diligent work ethic earning a high reputation from his athletic counterparts across the world, Bryant's influence has expanded beyond the game of basketball.

"Kobe's career has been a great inspiration for many young people," Lang Ping, head coach of China's women's volleyball team, wrote on a Monday Weibo post together with a photo taken with Bryant during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.


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