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‘I never thought I would cry for someone I never met’: Late NBA star Kobe Bryant remembered at Baltimore vigil

About 40 people including former NBA player Keith Booth gathered outside City Hall on January 28, 2020 to hold a vigil for the late Kobe Bryant.

As the clock struck 8:24 p.m. Tuesday, a group of Baltimore residents held their phones up in unison outside City Hall and prayed for the memory of the late Kobe Bryant.

It was one of many tributes held throughout the country after the longtime NBA star who wore uniform numbers 8 and 24 died in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday.

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Now two days after his death, those who’d gathered outside City Hall looked to the 41-year-old’s legacy for lessons on how Baltimoreans can tackle the city’s problems.

Eddie Bryant, 42, of Baltimore said he was playing “Call of Duty” with a friend when the news broke and the two froze in the middle of the video game.

“I shut everything down,” he said. “I never thought I would cry for someone I never met.”

A group of Baltimore residents hold their phones up in unison at 8:24 p.m. Tuesday outside City Hall and prayed for the memory of late NBA star Kobe Bryant.
A group of Baltimore residents hold their phones up in unison at 8:24 p.m. Tuesday outside City Hall and prayed for the memory of late NBA star Kobe Bryant.(Kenneth K. Lam)

He said that while initially he was a fan of former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant’s body language on the court reminded him of Jordan’s and he became enamored of his work ethic.

He also recognized the complicated legacy the Lakers superstar left behind: not a perfect man, but someone who made mistakes during his career.

In 2003, Kobe Bryant was charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman. Prosecutors dropped the case before it went to trial and Bryant later apologized to the woman and said he recognized “she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.”

He was fined $100,000 in April 2011 for using a homophobic slur toward a referee.

Eddie Bryant said the former Laker’s past is part of his legacy but does not take away from his impact on those who watched him play.

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About 40 people, including former NBA player Keith Booth, right, gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday night to hold a vigil for Kobe Bryant, the former NBA player who was among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday.
About 40 people, including former NBA player Keith Booth, right, gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday night to hold a vigil for Kobe Bryant, the former NBA player who was among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday.(Kenneth K. Lam)

“We all tried to be like him,” Eddie Bryant said, mimicking how people ball up pieces of paper and shoot them into trash cans while saying “Kobe!”

Mayoral candidate Carlmichael “Stokey” Cannady, who organized the event, said he looked at Bryant as someone who was “a perfectionist who never gave up” and called on those in attendance to use the energy that brought them to honor the basketball player to help bring change to Baltimore.

“I know if we can do it for Kobe, we can do it for ourselves,” Cannady said.

Dunbar High School boys basketball coach Keith Booth, a former Maryland and NBA player, said Bryant’s legacy “goes far beyond the game of basketball” and is one he hopes the city’s residents can look to as inspiration.

“If everybody just really looked in the mirror and really strived to become the best version of [themselves], then we’ll become a better city,” Booth said. “Hopefully, when we reflect on Kobe’s legacy ... it’s all about making changes for the better.”

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