Basketball: Kobe Bryant memorial expected to draw thousands to LA's Staple Centre to celebrate his life

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) – Thousands of Kobe Bryant fans will gather in Los Angeles on Monday (Feb 24) to pay homage to the late NBA star and his daughter Gianna, nearly a month after their deaths in a helicopter crash sent shockwaves through the world of sports and beyond.

Billed as a “Celebration of Life”, the memorial at the Staples Centre, Bryant’s home arena during most of his storied 20-season career with the Los Angeles Lakers, follows a series of remembrances, including a private family funeral earlier this month.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter were among nine people killed in the accident while en route to a youth basketball tournament at which Kobe was planning to coach his daughter and her teammates.

Bryant, a transcendent star who joined the National Basketball Association at age 18 straight out of high school, was a five-time NBA champion and fourth-highest scorer in league history with 33,643 points.

The Lakers, where he spent his entire career, retired both of his jersey numbers – 8 and 24.

During the annual NBA All-Star weekend three weeks after his death, Bryant was named a Basketball Hall of Fame finalist, and the NBA announced its All-Star Game Most Valuable Player honour would be permanently named for the late superstar.

While details about the memorial were scarce, images on social media showed fans gathering hours before it began, with the hashtag #KobeFarewell trending on Twitter in the United States, as fans, former teammates and fellow athletes struggle to make sense of the loss.

The memorial is set to begin at 10am local time (2am Singapore time on Tuesday).

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