LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Thousands of fans have descended on Staples Center for Kobe Bryant’s public memorial, many decked out in custom-made clothes paying tribute to the NBA superstar.
Most fans have donned store-bought Lakers merchandise – T-shirts, jerseys, even beanies – as they arrived early for the 10 a.m. memorial at Staples Center. The doors opened at about 7:30 a.m., allowing fans to start streaming inside or the memorial.
But with gifts, flowers and signs prohibited from the service, some fans went the extra mile to show their love and devotion to Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
— Tina Patel (@tina_patel) February 24, 2020
“I am truly a Laker fan, but I am a die-hard Kobe Bryant fan,” said Samantha Gibson, who drove out from Bakersfield. “I’ve been watching him since he went into the NBA, watched every game, I mean, I am totally a fan. And it would only be right, this is the end of the journey. This is the closure I needed.”
Gibson and her friend both arrived in white hooded sweatshirts and pants custom made for the memorial. Gibson’s sweatshirt features a purple “24” on a gold background in front and a black “2” with a purple border underneath the message “always in our Hearts.” On one pant leg is “Mambacita” in pink, and the other, “Kobe” in purple and gold.
In the days after Bryant’s death, custom airbrushed clothes and shoes in tribute to him and his daughter were seen all over the NBA. Lakers superfan and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and his wife also donned airbrushed outfits to the first Laker game after Bryant’s death.
At the Original Pantry Café, where many fans gather for a meal ahead of a typical Lakers game, Sheryl Leverette wore a black letterman-style jacket with a giant, gold “24” on the back, and the corresponding years of each of Bryant’s championship titles on the sleeves. She said that the impact of his passing would make her start to cry.
“It’s just like when you know somebody 20 years. You go to the games, you see how dedicated he is to the sport,” she said. “It’s no words for it. You can see it with all the mourning that we’re all doing, for him, Gigi, and the seven other people.”