Shock. Disbelief. Sadness. Those were the feelings most people shared as they tried to process the unthinkable. NBA icon, Kobe Bryant, a hero to many Los Angelenos and fans around the globe, died in a helicopter crash early Sunday morning.
TMZ first broke the news that Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others had passed away on the same day the Grammys were held, right outside the stadium where Kobe built his basketball kingdom.
“I was on Instagram and saw a picture with RIP on it and I didn’t believe it but when I got to the Staples Center I realized it was real,” said Rakeem Chatman, a fan.
In the immediate aftermath of the news breaking, the Staples Center wasn’t very packed. Soon afterward thousands of fans wearing Kobe’s number 8 and 24 packed the arena. What was supposed to be a celebration of music’s biggest stars quickly became a memorial for one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
THE HOUSE THAT KOBE BUILT
Outside of the Staples Center was the tale of two cities. People either wore tuxes and dress clothes or Kobe Bryant’s jersey.
“As far as any other event going on in L.A. right now? It’s nonexistent. Everybody’s thoughts are with Kobe, his daughter Gigi and all the other victims,” said Erika Nai, a fan. For comedian, Mr. Commodore, who was attending his first-ever Grammy event, the show was over before it even really began.
Many people in attendance cried tears while others tried to force a smile by telling old Kobe stories. Others played songs that had Kobe references and chants broke out of “KOBE KOBE” and “GIGI GIGI.”
One of the most stunning takeaways was the diversity of the crowd. Little children, elders, white, black, it didn’t matter. Many people in attendance were Mexican. Kobe united people on the court, he untied the fans and even in his death, he continues to unite people.
That was the one ray of sunshine in what otherwise was a dark day. Fans cried but vowed to press on because that’s Mamba mentality. No matter what you keep going. Keep pushing. That’s what Kobe would have wanted the fans to do. And they will. But on this day, all we could do was cry in the house that Kobe built.
Tony Anderson is an on-air talent, writer and producer. He can be reached at @tonyandersonTV on Instagram for a good debate.