Local fans leave flowers, basketballs and messages at memorial outside Scotiabank Arena
Over 4,000 kilometres from Los Angeles, basketball fans in Toronto gathered Thursday outside Scotiabank Arena to celebrate and reflect on the career of Kobe Bryant.
Eighteen-time NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant, along with seven others, died in a helicopter accident on Sunday, Jan 26., in Calabasas, Calif.
Fans of Bryant left flowers, basketball gear and wrote on the large No. 24 sign wishing Kobe and Gianna goodbye. Bryant famously switched the number he wore for the Los Angeles Lakers from 8 to 24 at the start of the 2006-07 NBA season. He retired after the 2015-16 NBA season, memorably scoring 60 points versus the Utah Jazz at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles in his final game.
Longtime Bryant fan Gia Shakhra, 19, says Kobe Bryant inspired her to continue to challenge herself every time she played basketball.
“One day I was watching a game and I saw him do this step-back shot and I was like, I need to learn how to do that,” Shakhra said. “So I would go to practice and run end to end and then I actually started making them.” She said she attempted and made the same shot she learned from Bryant in a game and described it as one of her most memorable moments playing basketball.
Click on the space below and swipe right and left to read messages left by fans at the memorial.
Lifelong NBA fan Ricardo De La Cruz, who hails from Tobasco, Mexico, stopped to pay his respects to Bryant while visiting Toronto. He says Bryant was one of the most talented players to ever play the game.
“Kobe played in the most difficult era of basketball, in the early 2000s,” said De La Cruz, one of about 50 people who attended the memorial.
He compared Bryant’s style of play to a sniper. He said Bryant reminded him of Brazilian soccer player Ronaldo, capable of scoring as they please.
Bryant spent 20 seasons playing for the Lakers. Aside from being a perennial all-star, he was selected to the All-NBA First Team 11 times. More notably he is a five-time NBA champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP and a nine-time All-NBA Defensive First Team selection. Bryant won two Olympic Gold Medals, in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games held in Beijing and London.
He’s known as one of the best scorers in the history of basketball.
Just the day before the accident, current NBA star LeBron James passed Bryant in all-time points scored, dropping Bryant to number four on the all-time scoring list.
By age 24, Bryant had won three straight NBA championships with friend and teammate Shaquille O’Neal, forming what many regard as the most lethal duo in NBA history.
Bryant is famous for recording his career-high in points, scoring 81 in a game versus the Toronto Raptors in 2006. That is the highest recorded total in the NBA shot-clock era. Wilt Chamberlain is still number one all-time, scoring 100 points in a single NBA game in 1962.
On the day of Bryant’s death, the Raptors faced the San Antonio Spurs. Both teams allowed two 24-second shot clock violations beginning the match, to pay their respects.
The Lakers were set to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, Jan. 28. The game was postponed until further notice in light of what happened on Sunday.
Kobe and Gianna Bryant are survived by wife and mother Vanessa Bryant and three remaining children/sisters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri.