'He Had Loyalty to This Town': As L.A. Mourns Kobe Bryant, Mayor Calls for City Flags to Fly Half-Staff

Local News

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti requested all city flags to be lowered to half-staff on Monday as local fans continue to mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant.

The basketball star, who played all 20 years of his NBA career for the Los Angeles Lakers, died unexpectedly at age 41 after the helicopter he was in crashed  and erupted into flames on the hillsides of Calabasas on Sunday morning. Eight others died, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

While the incident remains under investigation, tributes to Bryant’s legacy have poured in from devastated Angelenos across the city, including Garcetti.

“What a sad day. It doesn’t feel like L.A. without Kobe in it,” the mayor told KTLA on Monday morning.

Bryant was a transplant like many Angelenos. He was born in Philadelphia and starred at a suburban high school team after spending part of his childhood in Italy, where he learned the language while his father played pro basketball.

But Los Angeles claimed him as its own.

“He had loyalty to this town,” Garcetti said. “He became L.A., 20 years in a single team.”

The mayor highlighted Bryant’s contributions to local causes, including homelessness and the welfare of children in foster care.

Even before he retired, Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, founded a philanthropic foundation to help out young people and their families. He said seeing homeless people outside Staples Center on his way home to Orange County prompted him to take action.

“This was a guy who gave so hugely with his heart, to the game, to his family, and most of all to this city,” Garcetti said.

At the L.A. Live Plaza, just outside the Staples Center, a makeshift memorial of flowers, signs and balloons continues to grow.

One fan who tried to buy purple and yellow flowers to bring to the arena on Sunday shared on Twitter his encounter with a local florist.

Asked if the flowers were for Bryant, he nodded.

“When she finished I asked what I owed her. she shook her head, handed me the flowers and said ‘it’s LA’.” Zach Schwartz wrote. “I almost cried. LAs love for Kobe is powerful.”

About 5 miles west, Venice-based graffiti artist Jules Muck spray-painted a portrait of Bryant and his daughter Gigi on a wall in Mid-City.

Fans also gathered at the site of the mural, located by a market on Pickford Street and Washington Boulevard.

Muck had issued a call for suggestions on where to paint her tribute when she learned about the helicopter crash, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

A friend suggested a blank space on the side of Pickford Market. The mural was finished in six hours.

“I was really upset while I was painting, fighting back tears especially the ‘Daddy’s Girl Banner,’” Muck told the L.A. Daily News. “It just meant a lot to me.”

Another mural of Bryant on Melrose Avenue in Fairfax, painted to commemorate his retirement in 2016, also became a shrine following news of his death, with fans lighting candles and sticking Post-its bearing messages to the wall.

“This city is yours, Kobe,” one said. “These notes show you that you changed lives with your game. Heaven gained an angel.”

A man wearing a cap honoring Bryant’s Oscar win for the 2017 animated short film “Dear Basketball”  found the news hard to believe.

“He is an idol. I looked up to him, not just because of the basketball, but just how he lived life,” he told KTLA. “Mamba mentality, he wanted everyone to have that mentality, and not just in L.A., but worldwide.”

A 10-year-old whose parents named him Kobe also dropped by the site with his family, who proclaimed themselves to be lifelong Lakers fans.

“He was 3-months-old at the time of his first Lakers game to see Kobe and the Lakers. And they won that day,” the boy’s father said, holding a photo of himself with his infant son, next to an image of Bryant.

Another young fan, a 9-year-old boy, told KTLA, “He should’ve at least lived long enough to where he could’ve saw his grandchild… he should’ve lived way longer.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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