INGLEWOOD — When Angel Quintero and Francisco Araiza wanted to pay their respects to Kobe Bryant, they decided to drive by The Forum, where Bryant began his career as an 18-year-old with the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 3, 1996.
Then they decided to remember Kobe by playing basketball.
Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in the hills of Calabasas Jan. 26. He was flying with eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, to a girls basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks.
“We always grew up playing basketball because of him,” said Quintero, before playing one-on-one against his cousin at Darby Park in Inglewood on a court appropriately stamped with the Los Angeles Lakers purple and gold logo.
“Just came out here to pay our respects. … We haven’t picked up a basketball in a long time. Just hearing that he passed away, made us want to come out and shoot some hoops,” added Quintero’s cousin Francisco Araiza, as they went at it on the blacktop, less than a mile from The Forum.
“He was an idol, he was a hero, he meant a lot to L.A., so here we are,” Quintero continued.
Dressed in a No. 24 Lakers Jersey with Black Mamba on the back, Quintero said Kobe was a driving force in his life.
“His hard work and dedication would drive me to do the same thing, not just in sports but even your work ethic in school, your career, whatever you’re working on, you do your best at all times. That’s definitely one thing I learned from Kobe,” Quintero added.
April Osorno also spent time at Darby Park remembering Kobe, sporting a fresh, vintage No. 8 purple Kobe Bryant jersey.
“I felt an emotional hangover from the news, really upset the day of, I just felt like reppin’ the colors,” Osorno said, who is a studio artist based in Long Beach.
Interestingly, Osorno was not playing basketball and she admits she’s not the biggest basketball fan. She was skating because it makes her happy in a time of sorrow.
“I’ve never been upset for a celebrity death,” Osorno said. “David Bowie or Michael Jackson, of course, they were influential in my life but nothing has hit me like this. You feel like you lost somebody you knew because it makes you nostalgic for where was I when I saw this game. It feels cut short. All of L.A. is mourning.”
There is a makeshift memorial at The Forum under a large video billboard screen, which is repeatedly playing a minute long tribute to Bryant. The video shows a young Kobe Bryant making spectacular plays in his No. 8 jersey, before revealing more recent photos, the No. 24 and all the names of the nine victims of helicopter crash.
The video ends with a message saying, “Rest In Peace: Kobe Bryant, 1978-2020.”
“I didn’t get to witness him play in The Forum but that’s where his career started, where his legacy started,” Araiza said the day after the helicopter crash that took Bryant’s life. “It still ain’t real. I woke up, looked at my phone and still saw people posting and talking about it everywhere. It just seems like he wasn’t supposed to die so soon, tragic.”
“I just can’t see why things like this happen,” said Inglewood resident Willie Agee. “I wasn’t a big fan of Kobe but I shed a few tears behind this one. … The guy touched a lot of people in this world.”
The Inglewood City Council ended its meeting Jan. 28 adjourning in the memory of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who was an emerging basketball player with dreams of eventually playing professionally in the WNBA.
The other seven victims were also remembered during a moment of silence.
Meanwhile, Quintero’s Black Mamba Jersey is more than Kobe’s nickname. It serves as a reminder that the Mamba Mentality, something Bryant preached and exuded, will live on forever.
“Determination, hard work, give it your all at all times, and try to be better than the best, and even better than that. Just keep it going, there’s no limit,” Quintero said.