Kobe Bryant's legacy felt in Richmond, around the world
Free Press staff, wire reports | 1/31/2020, 6 a.m.
Purple and gold-themed tributes of praise have sprung up as Richmond and communities in Virginia and around the world recognize the life and accomplishments of the late basketball star Kobe Bryant, an 18-time All-Star who won five NBA championships during his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In Richmond, United Communities Against Crime, in cooperation with the Black Top Kings & Queens and Balloons & Things, will hold a citywide memorial service 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, in memory of Mr. Bryant, 41, and his daughter, Gianna, 13, who perished Sunday with seven others in a helicopter crash in Southern California.
The memorial service will be held at the Black Top Kings & Queens Sports Academy, 318 W. 19th St. in South Side.
People are asked to wear their Kobe Bryant jerseys and other Lakers paraphernalia.
City officials and local clergy are expected to speak and share their thoughts about Mr. Bryant and his legacy, according to Charles D. Willis, executive director of United Communi- ties Against Crime.
“We look for folks to come out, to have an opportunity to grieve, to mourn, to come together as a city collectively,” Mr. Willis said via phone on Wednesday. “It’s about bringing the community together as one in solidarity to support one another here at home.
“A lot of young folks, as well as old folks, didn’t realize that Kobe was more than just a sports entertainment star,” Mr. Willis said. “Kobe spoke four different languages. Kobe was the youngest to be drafted into the NBA, as well as being a husband, family man and a dad.”
Mr. Bryant leaves behind his wife, Vanessa, and three daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, who was born in June.
His daughter, Gianna, who was called “Gigi,” had a promising youth basketball career and a competitive spirit that reminded people of her dad. Mr. Bryant told late-night television host Jimmy Kimmell in 2018 that Gianna wanted to play in the WNBA.
During Tuesday’s Capital City Classic basketball game between Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond, a large section of the Siegel Center was filled with a poster of Mr. Bryant and signs with his Lakers jersey number, 24.
Floral memorials have been left everywhere from rural Martinsville in Southside Virginia, to an area near the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Mr. Bryant played.
Buildings from downtown Los Angeles to its busy Los Angeles International Airport were illuminated with the Lakers’ colors, purple and gold.
Hundreds of fans — many in Lakers gear and jerseys — spontaneously gathered at Staples Center and in the surrounding LA Live entertainment complex on Sunday, weeping and staring at video boards with Bryant’s image before the Grammy Awards ceremony.
“I thought he was going to live forever,” Lakers great Magic Johnson told a Los Angeles TV station. “I thought he was invincible. There was nobody who took more pride in putting on that Lakers uniform than Kobe. Nobody.”
The fatal crash occurred during in the foggy hills above Calabasas, Calif., as Mr. Bryant and his daughter were on their way to a youth basketball tournament she was playing in at the Mamba Sport Academy, Mr. Bryant’s training complex in Newbury Park, Calif.