MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Basketball fans in the Mid-South reacted with shock and mourning to the loss of one of the NBA’s greatest players Sunday.
There were dozens of diehard Kobe Bryant fans who came to FedEx Forum to watch the Grizzlies, wearing Kobe's jersey or Lakers gear.
And that shows the impact that he made on the game of basketball. There aren't many players that transcend teams, where fans just love everything about that player.
Sunday was especially difficult for those fans.
“It's utter shock and just disbelief,” said Eric Donaldson, fan.
Everywhere you looked outside FedEx Forum, scattered among the crowd, fans wore number 24 and number 8 Kobe Bryant jerseys, even Kobe’s shoes -- paying tribute to a basketball icon.
Kobe fans took the shocking news of his death, and the death of his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash, very hard.
“You never expect something like that to happen, especially being a sports icon like Kobe was,” said Max Courtney, fan.
“I am heartbroken, not just about his death but about losing his daughter as well,” said Sonja Lavender, fan.
“I just shut down. I mean, that is my icon. That's one of the top three people who inspired me to be who I am,” said Clint Abner, fan.
For some fans, losing Bryant is emotional.
“It’s tough to think about,” said Brad Melancon, fan.
A player who changed the game of basketball, Bryant forever left his mark with five NBA championships, an MVP award and two Olympic gold medals.
His play left fans with lifelong memories.
“2010, 2011, him going against Dwight Howard, taking it there and I remember being with my dad watching that nonstop,” said Abner.
“Even though I'm a little older, I still used to look at his moves, and when I coached the girls at church, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church Westwood, I tried to instill in them some of the moves that he had,” said Lavender.
Kobe and Gianna went viral on social media recently, caught on camera in an authentic moment teaching her the game.
His example off the court also leaves a strong impact for fans.
“He put his daughters first, so he's a good role model for me to put my daughters first,” said Melancon.
For these fans, going to a game in Kobe's honor felt like the right thing to do.
“I think it's good to be with a basketball family. That's where I wanted to be,” said Melancon.
“Hopefully I can keep the tears away trying to remember Kobe,” said Bryant.
The Grizzlies honored Kobe by running out the 24-second shot clock in the first possession of the game -- also the number Kobe wore in his last NBA game.
“I'm going to miss him. It's not expected at all,” said Melancon.
Fans said their thoughts and prayers are with the Bryant family, who is going through an unimaginably difficult time losing a husband and father, and a daughter.