NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – NBA superstar Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash in the Los Angeles area—but his death was felt far beyond California.
Bryant, one of the biggest NBA stars in recent memory, had fans all over the world. Madison Square Garden was lit up in purple and gold—the colors of the Lakers team, which Bryant played on for some 20 years.
While Bryant never wore the Knicks blue and orange, he still left an indelible mark on New York fans.
“Very sad. He was a legend,” one man said outside the Garden Sunday evening.
“He was an awesome player. You know, a great role model. A great father,” said another man.
“Every basketball court you went—everybody heard about Kobe Bryant,” another fan remembered.
Outside the Garden, fans stood for a moment of silence at the start of Sunday night’s Knicks and Nets game as the scoreboard displayed a photo of Kobe Bryant. At the end of the moment of silence, fans began chanting “Kobe! Kobe!”
Nets star Kyrie Irving, who was a close friend of Bryant’s, was not in the lineup for Sunday's game.
Bleacher report senior NBC writer Howard Beck covered Bryant for seven years. He said there was a particular affection from Knicks fans.
“The New York crowd just absolutely was head over heels for him,” Beck said. “It didn't matter if he had just crossed up Latrell Sprewell and gone for this incredible reverse dunk against the Knicks. Knicks fans just loved what Kobe was able to do.”
Beck simply called Bryant one of the all-time greats. “His impact on the game. His passion for the game. His love of basketball. His competitive drive. His work ethic.”
Bryant was in New York just last year. Not at the Garden, but at a gym in Harlem for the start of the Mamba League, his youth basketball clinic.
Bryant died near Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna also was killed, according to numerous reports. Authorities confirmed nine people were on the helicopter and that all were presumed dead. No names were released.