Long Beach residents and basketball fans came together at Play Nice clothing store Sunday evening to grieve the news of Kobe Bryant’s death.
Bryant, 41, and his 13-year old daughter Gianna were among nine who died in a helicopter crash on a hillside in Calabasas. They were headed to the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks.
Not only Kobe fans, but basketball fans from all over paid respects to the influence that Bryant will forever leave behind.
“He has just had a historic career,” said Long Beach State alumni and co-owner of Play Nice Ryan Hoyle. “Kobe was just the man, you know, he had the swag, the arrogance, that confidence. It’s crazy”.
Play Nice opened in May 2018 and Hoyle said the shop has always embraced the Laker culture as if it were part of the store.
“We are big Laker fans, huge Laker fans, that’s our team,” Hoyle said. “We have always had Kobe jerseys, Shaq jerseys, Kareem jerseys—Laker legends. I think Kobe has attitudes that reflected us owners of the store, just that confidence.”
Long Beach residents gathered and placed candles, flowers and a basketball under a Kobe Bryant mural on the side of the shop on Fourth Street.
“It was a surprise to say the least, I definitely shed some tears,” said L.A. resident Lake McGussie. “The greatest memory was his last game. I was at a bar, great music, great atmosphere, but just his performance, him dropping 60 points in his last game was just inspiring to me the fact his body was worn out, being close to retirement.”
A prayer was held for Kobe and Gianna by a Laker fan for those who chose to be involved.
“Kobe brought my family together,” said Long Beach resident Brian Raber. “When he tore his Achilles and had to go and shoot the free throws, not only did he walk up to the free-throw line, he sunk both of them. That’s a testament to his grit and determination and really just encapsulated who he is as a person and competitor.”
About 30 people showed up to the vigil.
“Growing up I mean he was like an extended family member,” Raber said. “Just seeing him come on the court, knowing that your dinner that night would be what was on the table, plus Kobe Bryant and whatever he brought to the table, you look forward to it.”