Great athletes transcend the field of play, etching their aura into the tapestry of the cities they represent.
Few others in American sports have connected with a fanbase quite like Kobe Bryant did with Los Angeles, which built a rabid love affair with the future Hall of Famer through the ups and downs of his 20-year Lakers career.
Perhaps in no public setting did Bryant’s death make a stronger impact than in Los Angeles, which rallied to pay homage to its fallen son as soon as the news broke.
Free flowers for Kobe
A simple act of kindness in the immediate aftermath of his death sums up the city’s feelings for Bryant.
Yahoo Sports social media editor Zach Schwartz went to Staples Center Sunday afternoon to pay his respects and document the scene. He stopped to buy purple and yellow flowers on the way.
When he tried to pay, he instead found himself on the receiving end of an act of kindness.
For Kobe’s sake.
Bought flowers to bring to staples center. When the florist saw that I wanted purple and yellow she asked, “for Kobe?” I nodded. When she finished I asked what I owed her. she shook her head, handed me the flowers and said “it’s LA”. I almost cried. LAs love for Kobe is powerful— Zach Schwartz (@zachzachzach) January 26, 2020
When his story caught the attention of social media, so did the purveyor of kindness who gifted Schwartz his flowers.
Tributes take over L.A.
Schwartz’s experience was one of countless displays of gratitude and mourning for Bryant throughout the day as the city coped with a sudden, devastating loss.
Schwartz got his footage, taking video of an impromptu gathering of fans who paid tribute to Bryant at the downtown entertainment complex L.A. Live.
“Thank you Kobe” and “MVP” chants echo around LA live pic.twitter.com/KgxrR78IYl— Zach Schwartz (@zachzachzach) January 26, 2020
The setting became an epicenter for Kobe tributes as stars showed up to Staples Center for the Grammy Awards on Sunday night.
Artist Alicia Keys paid homage while speaking in “the house that Kobe Bryant built” as Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys hanging in the rafters remained lit for the ceremony.
"We're literally standing here, heartbroken, in the house that Kobe Bryant built" - Alicia Keys from the Staples Center, where Bryant's retired 8 and 24 jerseys hang in the rafters #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/t5tyXZTULI— MTV NEWS (@MTVNEWS) January 27, 2020
A city lit in purple and gold
Elsewhere in L.A., iconic spots lit up in purple in gold in honor of Bryant.
Lights for a legend.— Mayor Eric Garcetti (@MayorOfLA) January 27, 2020
Los Angeles City Hall lit in purple and gold starting at 8:24 p.m. this evening in honor of Kobe Bryant’s storied championship career and in memory of Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and all who perished in today’s tragedy. pic.twitter.com/1una7Aj98Z
Tonight, LAX’s pylons will be lit in purple and gold in memory of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and all those who were with them in today’s unthinkable accident. Kobe was in many ways a symbol of Los Angeles and we join his family, fans and city in mourning all who were lost today. pic.twitter.com/HGX5AaSDBG— LAX Airport (@flyLAXairport) January 27, 2020
Fans flocked to a streetside mural of Bryant.
Fans in Los Angeles gather in front of a Kobe Bryant mural, putting post-it notes on the wall and flowers on the ground in memory of the Black Mamba. pic.twitter.com/Cg7CoFADsj— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 26, 2020
And they stood in line to sign their names to a tribute set up by the Lakers.
The Lakers have created a space outside their training facility, but inside the security gates, for a vigil. Fans are signing a large white canvas. There’s a Lakers backdrop with flowers and candles in front of it. Some photos of Kobe. pic.twitter.com/afnard1PY4— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) January 27, 2020
Bryant made such an impact that Magic Johnson — arguably the most popular player in NBA history — called Bryant the greatest Los Angeles Laker ever upon his retirement.
And a large swath of Lakers fans who adore Johnson wouldn’t disagree.
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