Gone too soon. Fans rushed to the Staples Center in Los Angeles to honor the life and legacy of Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26. He was 41 years old.
The former NBA star played for the L.A. Lakers throughout his 20-year career and quickly became an icon in the community. Shortly after Us Weekly confirmed the news of his passing, sports lovers gathered outside the arena to mourn the enormous loss.
An onlooker tells Us exclusively that the energy around the Staples Center was “somber and quiet,” as fans donned their Lakers gear and placed flowers around the gates.
“Fans are crying and wiping their tears. Some have bouquets of white roses,” the eyewitness adds. “There is a huge white, purple and gold bouquet of roses in front of the fence with a ribbon that reads, ‘Kobe We Love You, RIP’ … Everyone is silent.”
Outside of the arena, basketball lovers broke their emotional silence to cheer as a screen flashed a photo of the retired Lakers star reading, “In Loving Memory.”
News of the athlete’s passing — and the death of his daughter, Gianna, who was also in the helicopter — comes ahead of the 2020 Grammy Awards taking place at the very same downtown L.A. arena. When the doors to the arena opened on Sunday night, stars were seen taking photos in front of the large painted mural of Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
“The mood is somber at the Grammy Awards,” a separate source tells Us. “It’s even more emotional because there is so much Kobe memorabilia at the Staples Center. Celebrities are scrambling to change and edit their statements because of the news.”
As the sports world reels from these devastating losses, music’s biggest stars have flooded social media with loving tributes and prayers for the basketball legend’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, and their three other daughters.
“Kobe, we love you brother,” Kanye West tweeted on Sunday afternoon. “We’re praying for your family and appreciate the life you’ve lived and all the inspiration you gave.”
Pharrell Williams remembered Bryant fondly, writing on Instagram, “The world lost a giant today. Rest in peace Kobe Bryant. Also praying for the other passengers that we lost and their families.”
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Scroll down to see photos from outside the Staples Center.