The death of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his daughter Gianna and seven others has stunned people across the world. The same is true in China, where even amid a major public health crisis caused by the spread of coronavirus there have been widespread outpourings of grief and condolences shared online.
Bryant visited China multiple times and was a huge star in a country that has long had a fervent passion for basketball. His first visit to China was in 1998 and just over a decade later he set up a charitable fund in the country to “raise money for education, sports, and culture programs for children from China and the United States.” He also directed his US-based charitable fund “to strengthen ties between the two countries by teaching [US] middle school students about Chinese language and culture.” Last year, he served as an ambassador for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in the country.
News of Bryant’s death at the age of 41 became the top trending topic on microblogging site Sina Weibo on Monday morning, overtaking a number of coronavirus terms. A post from the NBA’s official Weibo handle featuring Adam Silver’s statement on Bryant’s passing has been liked over 1 million times.
“RIP Kobe… From sharing the same bday to opponents to teammates… Respect for everything you did for the game and the world,” wrote Jeremy Lin, adding: “Gone too soon, life’s truly too precious.”
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Jeremy Lin 林書豪 (@jlin7)
A post shared by Jeremy Lin 林書豪 (@jlin7)
Yi Jianlian, one of China’s most famous basketball players and who briefly signed with the Lakers in 2016, wrote on Weibo, “When we both had the same finger injury, I rested for a month and a half. You didn’t rest for a day. From that moment on, I learnt the true meaning of persistence from you […] Thank you Kobe […] Rest in peace to the legend.”
How Basketball Became China’s Most Beloved Sport
But it’s not just those involved in the sport who have been touched by Bryant’s passing. Rapper Vava, who had performed her hit “My New Swag” at halftime of the Lakers game against the 76ers in Philadelphia at the weekend, posted a picture of the player with a broken heart emoji.
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Vava (@vava.mis)
A post shared by Vava (@vava.mis)
Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Chinese fans have posted their own memories of Kobe the player (his complicated off-court legacy is not widely discussed), with whole generations of basketball followers having cheered him on, mobbed him at fan events, and worn replicas of his famous 24 jersey up and down the country over the years.
The news, combined with the spread of coronavirus, has led some commenters to ask if we can just start 2020 again. While in some cases, the two stories have intertwined:
The emergency department of Huaxi hospital in Chengdu received 50 cups of coffee from an anonymous citizen today. And there's a handwritten message on each of them.One message reads: Kobe is gone, but the Mamba Mentality is still here. We are here. pic.twitter.com/MrBtkPbSLS— Chenchen Zhang (@chenchenzh) January 27, 2020
The emergency department of Huaxi hospital in Chengdu received 50 cups of coffee from an anonymous citizen today. And there's a handwritten message on each of them.One message reads: Kobe is gone, but the Mamba Mentality is still here. We are here. pic.twitter.com/MrBtkPbSLS
— Chenchen Zhang (@chenchenzh) January 27, 2020
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