The death of the NBA superstar in a helicopter crash Sunday has devastated basketball fans in China, where Bryant’s fame was unparalleled.
The death of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash Sunday has sparked an outpouring of grief in China, the country the all-time NBA great once called a “home away from home.”
Bryant had been traveling to a basketball game with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people over Calabasas, California. Los Angeles County police told ESPN there were no survivors.
At the time of publication, Bryant’s death was the biggest topic on microblogging platform Weibo, with a hashtag translating to “Kobe passing away” garnering over 2.3 billion views.
“Waking up to Kobe’s death — how I wish this was fake news,” one Weibo user commented under the NBA’s official announcement of Bryant’s death. “Thank you for keeping me company on countless days and nights. You will always be in my heart.”
“Kobe Bryant spanned the entire young generation. I would race home from school every day just to watch him play for a few minutes,” another user wrote under a related media post. “He became the person we all hope to be on the basketball court. If Jordan is the god of basketball, then Kobe is the god of us (the fans).”
Bryant’s ascension in China was precipitated by several factors including the retirement of Michael Jordan, the NBA’s foray into the Asian market under the late Commissioner David Stern, and the emergence of Yao Ming, the first Chinese player to find success in the NBA.
After signing a $40 million contract with Nike in 2003, Bryant started touring China with the sportswear brand beginning in 2006, traveling across the country and teaching children the game of basketball every year since. Continue to read the full article here.
– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.