The tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant overshadowed discussions on the escalating novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China as millions of fans honored his memory in individual posts and comment sections on social media.
Bryant, 41, passed away in a helicopter crash on a hillside in Calabasas, California on Sunday morning, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement today regarding the passing of Kobe Bryant pic.twitter.com/P88GwIwmYV
— NBA (@NBA) January 26, 2020
Bryant’s sudden death sent immediate shock waves around the globe, with fans commemorating highlights of his 20-year career in the NBA.
However, nowhere appeared to be as devastated as China — a nation of 1.4 billion people — where the basketball legend has more fans than anywhere in the world.
As of 11:45 p.m. on Monday (Beijing Time), a Weibo topic on Bryant’s death reached a staggering 3.87 billion views, besting all other hashtags at the moment — including the deadly coronavirus that has so far claimed more than 80 lives in the country.
To put this in perspective, the NBA’s official announcement of the player’s death alone has attracted more than 1.3 million “likes,” 190,000 shares and 9,000 comments.
Bryant has always been close to Chinese fans, visiting the mainland at least once every year, according to Shanghaiist.
As a god-like figure, his visits had always drawn thousands of ecstatic fans of all ages, all eager to see him in the flesh.
The helicopter was flying at about 184 miles (296 kilometers) per hour and descending at a rate of more than 4,000 feet (about 1,220 meters) per minute when it crashed, ABC7 reported.
Bryant and his daughter were headed to his training facility, Mamba Sports Academy, located in Thousand Oaks, to watch a basketball tournament.
As Western social networking platforms are banned in China, local fans have paid tribute to Bryant in comment sections and in their own posts on Weibo, the country’s equivalent of Twitter.
Below are some of their messages:
Investigations on the crash site are underway. As of this writing, not all victims have been identified.