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Japan stars mourn tragic death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant

  • January 27, 2020
  • , Kyodo News , 1:34 p.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO – Japanese sports stars paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant on Monday after he was killed along with his teenage daughter in a helicopter crash.


The 41-year-old, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout a glittering career spanning two decades, died after the private aircraft came down in California on Sunday morning, according to U.S media reports.


Yuta Watanabe, who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA, and former Japan international footballer Keisuke Honda, were among those from the Japanese sporting world to pay tribute on social media.


“Say it ain’t so….Kobe,” tweeted Watanabe.


Yudai Baba, who plays for the Texas Legends, the minor league affiliate of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, tweeted, “I don’t know what’s happened I can’t believe it…It’s impossible to believe.”


Honda, one of Japan’s most recognizable sports stars, tweeted, “This has brought home to me how fragile and ephemeral human life is.”


“People say that your outlook on life changes when someone close to you dies. That I feel that way about Kobe’s death is proof that he was so great.”


Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 but was immediately traded to the Lakers. The 18-time NBA All-Star won five championships during a 20-year career spent entirely in Los Angeles.


Bryant’s parents named their son after the famous wagyu beef from Kobe city, the capital of Hyogo Prefecture in central Japan.


The legendary shooting guard became an ambassador to the city in 2001, three years after he visited Kobe to offer a donation toward relief for the Great Hanshin Earthquake that devastated the region in 1995.


The Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association offered its condolences and expressed gratitude to Bryant on Monday for helping their marbled beef gain worldwide recognition.


“We are shocked and saddened to hear of his sudden death and would like to offer our condolences,” Tetsunori Tanimoto, secretary general of the association was quoted as saying by the Kobe Shimbun newspaper.


“(Bryant) starred in the NBA and the Olympics and we are very grateful that he helped spread the name ‘Kobe beef’ the world over.”


Kobe’s father, Joe Bryant, was also a former NBA player and went on to coach several teams in Japan’s professional leagues and the ASEAN Basketball League.

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