NEWBURY PARK, Calif.-- Many fans traveled to Calabasas at the crash site to remember NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Fans also gathered at the Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park where Bryant and his daughter were traveling as the final destination.
Many tears were shed and hundreds of people crowded the streets in Calabasas to remember NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
“I don’t even know why, but you want to be somewhere close to it because it is unreal to imagine that this happened,” said Gennady Grainblat, who is a Calabasas resident.
Fans wearing his jersey witnessed the smoke along the hillside where the helicopter crashed. Investigators say nine people were on the helicopter when it came down, including Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter. Everyone on board was killed.
“Like many others, he was a true inspiration and not just in the game of basketball but his work ethic was so inspiring,” said Nassim Maydom, who lives in Calabasas.
“He really felt like family to me, especially seeing him out here in the community at games,” said Monica Wright from Calabasas. She says she's seen Bryant frequently at the Sports Academy while at her sister's games.
Bryant was on his way to the Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park when the crash happened. The basketball star partnered with the sports academy back in December of 2018. Since then he’s been very active in the community, even coaching his daughter’s basketball team.
“He was very humble and loved the fans and appreciated everything that our city brought to him and we appreciate everything that he brought to our city,” said Wright. “It is literally like losing family. He was really supportive of his daughter and of other players.”
Basketball tournaments were taking place at the Mamba Sports Academy all weekend long. Julio Gomez from Oxnard says his son Nathan is on one of the travel teams. They mentioned that they saw the Bryant family on Saturday.
“Yeah Kobe had a game yesterday,” said Gomez. “He was here coaching his daughter's team. It was the same routine, they went in their chopper yesterday also and he comes in here and he coaches, you know he is a dad.”
“Just sad, like yesterday we saw him and today he is just gone,” said Nathan Gomez.
Parents here say Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife was in the facility waiting for Kobe and their daughter Gianna to arrive on Sunday. After reports of the crash came out, parents say a bus came to the sports academy escorting the Bryant family out, and shortly after that the tournament was canceled.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Gomez. “It is still hard to believe.”
Fans, parents, kids, and the community came with flowers, and messages to remember number 24 in front of the Mamba Sports Academy.
“I cried, I know he was a father and he has a wife and children and as a mother that is tough,” said Angelica Apodaca, a Thousand Oaks Mother. “But then for my son who looks up to him so much, it is hard to see him sad.”