Fans gathered at Staples Center, where Bryant delivered championships.
The fans who gathered at Staples Center represented the ethnic and racial diversity of Bryant’s professional city.
Leo Márquez, 7, placed a candle at the memorial, his eyes filling with tears. He couldn’t get the words out to explain why he was there.
“He wanted to come because he always watched Kobe on TV with his dad,” said his mother, Alejandra Márquez.
Adam Jackman, 18, a University of Southern California student from New York City, walked from the university to the arena.
“I’m here for the impact that Kobe had on the city of L.A., not just on the court but in the community,” he said. “This is the best place to be with the city as it tries to heal.”
Joe Rivas, 28, a registered nurse, was on a gym treadmill in the town of Cerritos when the news of Bryant’s death flashed on the television.
“The whole place froze,” Rivas said. “It sucked the air out of the room. I couldn’t believe it. I grew up with Kobe. He is my favorite player of all time.”
Rivas said he couldn’t finish his workout. He changed and jumped in his car to drive 25 miles to Staples Center, where he had watched Bryant play his last game in April 2016.
“He was not a perfect man but we all have our faults,” said Rivas, who donned a No. 24 jersey. “It’s beyond basketball.”
A college baseball coach, his wife and daughter, also died.
Among the other victims of the crash was John Altobelli, 56, a longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College, a junior college in Costa Mesa. Calif. “This is a tremendous loss for our campus community,” said Angelica Suarez, the president of Orange Coast College, in a statement.
Juan Gutierrez, a spokesman for Orange Coast College, said that Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and daughter Alyssa also died in the crash.
Last year, Altobelli led the Pirates to the California Community College baseball state championship, their fourth state title under Altobelli. He was named one of the American Baseball Coaches Association coaches of the year.
Among the players Altobelli coached was Mets All-Star infielder, Jeff McNeil, in the summer Cape Cod Baseball League. “He took a chance on me, kept me the whole summer,” McNeil told ESPN. “Him taking that chance on me, having me on his team, got me drafted.”