The Palace on Monday led the country in expressing condolences to the loved ones and fans of NBA Star Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash.
Bryant was a frequent visitor to the Philippines and was loved by his Filipino fans, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
“On the hardcourt, he was a sight to behold with his dexterity and accuracy in sinking that ball in the ring. He was a master of his craft,” Panelo said.
“The Office of the President is saddened after learning about the tragic news of the death of the NBA superstar and legend.”
Bryant died Sunday when a helicopter he was riding in crashed and burst into flames in thick fog, killing all nine people on board including his teenage daughter, and plunging legions of fans around the world into mourning.
READ: Kobe Bryant’s relentless spirit inspired NBA, fans
Bryant, 41, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when their Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.
Senator Sonny Angara said because he was bringing his daughter to a basketball tournament, it could be said that Bryant died with his sneakers on.
He said during the prime of Bryant, he was a superstar waited on by a staff of hundreds. In retirement, he was happiest as a coach-cheerleader.
Filipino fans adored Bryant, who visited the country six times—the first in August 1998 and the last time in June 2016, just two months after he retired from the NBA.
READ: Heartbroken Filipinos react to Bryant’s passing
“I love it there [Philippines],” he said in a previous interview.
“It’s amazing,” he said of his prior visits, “I have such a great time, aside from the food. Amazing,” added Bryant, whose favorite Filipino food was lumpia or deep-fried spring rolls.
Bryant’s first visit to the country will be remembered most for his iconic photo taken with then-President Joseph Estrada and his “Tinikling” dance.
Bryant came back nine years later in September 2007. He was also in the country in July 2009, July 2011 and August 2013.
In 2011, Bryant played with the UAAP and Philippine teams at the Araneta Coliseum.
“I enjoy sharing the game of basketball and you know, Manila, of all the places that I’ve traveled, this has so much passion and enthusiasm for the game,” he said during that visit.
“That’s why I love coming back because I enjoy being around kids. I enjoy being around people who have the same passion.”
In 2013, he donated $150,000,00 to victims of Typhoon “Yolanda,” which devastated Samar and Leyte and killed 6,300 Filipinos.
A day before Bryant’s death, the City of Valenzuela inaugurated on Sunday a Los Angeles Lakers-inspired basketball court aptly named “House of Kobe” located at Barangay Karuhatan, Valenzuela City.
“The PBA has lost a dear friend in Kobe Bryant who leaves behind fond memories of his unforgettable visits to our country. Kobe was an exceptional basketball player, but beyond his athletic skills, he was known for his caring heart and love of family. His life was an inspiration and a lesson to everyone that with hard work, dedication and self-sacrifice, nothing is impossible,” said Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner Willie Marcial.
Bryant’s death sent shock waves throughout the world, with basketball stars stunned by the news.
“Laker Nation, the game of basketball & our city, will never be the same without Kobe,” former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.
Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan said Bryant was “like a little brother” to him.
“Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling,” Jordan said. “We used to talk often and I will miss those conversations very much.”
Tributes to Bryant flooded in from former US presidents, pop stars and athletes from different sports, a sign of how the man known as the “Black Mamba” had transcended basketball.
“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” former US President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter.
American football star Tom Brady wrote simply: “We miss you already Kobe.”
Brazilian soccer star Neymar paid tribute to Bryant after scoring for his French club side Paris Saint-Germain, making the number 24-Bryant’s old shirt number―with his fingers.
In Bryant’s hometown Los Angeles, pop iconoclast Billie Eilish, who cleaned up at the Grammys on Sunday with five awards, mourned the loss of the basketball hero.
“What’s next? I don’t know―he in this moment is all I’m thinking about,” Eilish told reporters backstage.
Hundreds, many wearing purple and gold Lakers shirts, gathered around a makeshift memorial to place flowers and candles for their hero.
“This dude is everything to me man. It makes no sense,” said distraught Lakers fan Bobby Jimenez, sobbing as he stood outside the venue.
Los Angeles City Hall was lit up in purple and gold to honor Bryant and the Grammys got underway with a somber tribute from singer Alicia Keys.
“To be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” Keys told the audience.
“Los Angeles, America, and the whole wide world lost a hero. And we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
Across the NBA, tributes were held at several of the eight games scheduled for Sunday.
Denver Nuggets fans began chants of “Kobe, Kobe” as a minute’s silence was held before their game against the Houston Rockets.
In New York, Madison Square Garden was lit up in purple and gold alongside a giant image of Bryant captioned: “Kobe Bryant, 1978-2020.”
The crash came only hours after Bryant was passed by current Lakers star LeBron James for third on the all-time NBA scoring list in a Saturday game at Philadelphia.
READ: James passes Bryant, 76ers rout Lakers
Bryant’s final post on social media had been a tweet congratulating James on surpassing him.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant wrote. “Much respect my brother #33644.”
Bryant was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of a high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016.
He also was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helping spark the US squad of NBA stars to titles in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.
Bryant bowed out of the NBA in 2016, scoring 60 points in his final appearance before his adoring fans at the Staples Center.
It was a fairytale farewell to a sporting career that had begun two decades earlier.
In 2018, he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball”—a love letter to the sport which brought him fame and fortune. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and AFP
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.