Soon after his passing, Bryant received a number of tributes from local leaders. In a statement, Mayor Eric Garcetti gave condolences to Bryant’s family and said that the former Laker “will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles.”
“Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed, and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court — and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved,” Garcetti said in the statement.
Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 out of Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, but was traded that same night to the Lakers for Center Vlade Divac. During his professional career, Kobe won five NBA Championships, two-time NBA Finals MVP, an 18-time all-star and earned the 2008 league most valuable player awards. He was also a prolific Olympic player, taking home two Olympic gold medals as part of the U.S. National team. After their 2010 championship, the Lakers entered a slump and Bryant retired at the end of the 2015-2016 season. By the time of his 20-year career with the Lakers ended, Kobe had scored the third-most points in NBA history. He was surpassed by LeBron James on that list just a day prior to his death.
James released a long statement on Instagram Tuesday morning.
“Man I love you big bro,” James wrote. “My heart goes to Vanesa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man.”
Bryant will be honored posthumously as a 2020 inductee in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this summer alongside Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.
HOF chairman and former USA Basketball Director Jerry Colangelo told the sport’s website The Athletic that with Kobe added to the 2020 class, that “Kobe will be honored the way he should be.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver shared a statement remarking on Bryant’s contributions to the game of basketball.
“He will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability,” Silver’s statement read. “He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.”
Bryant was in the early stages of the second leg of his career, focusing heavily on youth basketball, with a particular eye on the women’s game. Bryant was an outspoken supporter of the WNBA, actively working alongside his friend and former teammate Derek Fisher, who now serves as head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks. His Thousand Oaks multi-sport facility Mamba Sports Academy, also placed a particular focus on women’s sports.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert highlighted Bryant’s support for the league in a statement on Sunday.
“Kobe’s support for the WNBA and women’s basketball along with his passion for helping young girls and boys follow their dreams made him a true legend for our sport,” the statement read.
As the day stretched into night on Sunday, some fans left Staples. At the Golden Gopher bar on Eighth Street a few blocks away, Michael Carroll reminisced about the late player. Wearing a Bryant jersey, he said that when he first saw the news he thought it was a joke, as Lebron James had just passed Bryant for third in all-time NBA scoring the night before.
“I can’t [expletive] believe it. I can’t believe it,” Carroll said. “He’s not family but I’m devastated.”
It capped a playing career that was not without its controversy. His career was marred by a 2003 allegation that he raped a hotel worker in Colorado. The criminal charges were dropped and a civil case was settled out of court. After leaving the NBA, he worked as an investor. He also won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2018 for the movie Dear Basketball.
A game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers set for Tuesday, Jan. 28 has been postponed, with a makeup date yet to be announced. The Lakers, on Monday broke their daylong silence with a statement, thanking fans for their support during a difficult time.