Kobe Bryant, 41, died after a helicopter crash in Los Angeles County on Sunday. The retired five-time NBA champion was accompanied by his 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” and seven others, none of whom survived. Fans were in shock and shared their condolences online.
Gigi was an up-and-coming basketball player herself, following in her father’s footsteps. Bryant coached his daughter’s middle school basketball team. People reports that at the time of the crash, the two were on their way to her school, the Mamba Academy near Thousand Oaks, California, for basketball practice. Gigi aspired to play basketball for her dream school, the University of Connecticut or ‘UConn.’ When the NCAA member school heard news of the tragedy, they honoured Gigi by leaving her a space on the bench during an exhibition game Monday against the US women’s National Team. A UConn jersey was draped over the chair with Gigi’s number visible and flowers were displayed in the the university colours. The game began with a 24-second moment of silence, then two time penalties: one for eight seconds, the other for 24, each of Kobe Bryant’s numbers in the NBA.
Many others payed their respects in the NBA such as Lonzo Ball who had “RIP Kobe” written on his basketball shoes during a game. Other players could also be found with writing on their shoes. The Pelicans and the Celtics started their game by both taking 24-second shot-clock violations in honour of Kobe Bryant, as well as the Raptors and Spurs. However, Bryant’s memory is not just honoured in basketball, but in soccer, tennis, and even at the Grammy Awards.
Many tributes to Kobe Bryant can be found on any social media platform, news channel, or magazine… but why do we care? Why are so many people grieving over someone they have possibly never even met?
We don’t know celebrities, but we know celebrities. They have often been a regular part of our lives. We have often seen them grow and change and, in some cases we feel connected to our favourite celebrities. These connections are not just about how much we love, appreciate and respect these people, but sometimes because they remind us of who we want to be. Maybe that celebrity was always there to comfort us in our hardest hours, or inspired us when we had hit a wall. Maybe it was binge-watching The Lakers with a special family member who has now passed and that grief is being felt all over again. Whatever it is, when a celebrity dies who brought us comfort in our difficult times, it can be especially painful. We see this loss everywhere around us. The TV, radio, Instagram, Facebook, the news… you can’t escape it. So, we as a society turn to social media and we ‘share’ posts to show our solidarity and condolences in this new online memorial culture. Teams across the state, country, and world have come together to honour one of the greats in basketball history. The “Mamba Mentality” will be sure to live on.