Chinese players, fans mourn Kobe Bryant

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The file photo taken on Dec. 18, 2017 shows Kobe Bryant speaking during his jersey retirement press conference in Los Angeles, the United States. Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant was one of five people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas of southern California on Jan. 26, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Ying)

Chinese social media was packed with posts of shock and grief as players and fans mourned the death of former NBA player Kobe Bryant.

The Los Angeles and basketball legend, 41, was killed in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday. Also on board was his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

The late five-time NBA champion had a huge fan base in China as many Chinese players and fans expressed disbelief and shared their memories of Kobe on social media. "Kobe died" once became the top tag with more than 1.7 billion reads and 1.4 million engagements on China's Twitter-like Weibo.

"We both suffered a fractured finger. I rested for a month and a half, and you did not rest for a single day. Since then I learned from you what persistence meant," said Yi Jianlian, the all-time leading scorer of the Chinese Basketball Association who used to play in the NBA.

"I received unexpected encouragement from you when I encountered difficulties in my career. Thank you, thanks for everything. Mamba Mentality will always be there. R.I.P.," said Chinese international Zhai Xiaochuan.

"I watched you challenge Michael Jordan at the 1998 All-Star and fell in love with you. You were the reason that I became fond of basketball!" Xinjiang Flying Tiger player Zeng Lingxu posted. "For 20 years, you had always been my inspiration... I hope your dear basketball will keep you accompany in the paradise. R.I.P. my idol for life."

Kobe's Oscar-winning animation "Dear Basketball" and his Chinese New Year greeting just two days ago, as well as the video footage of his last match, where he scored 60 before bidding farewell, were also widely reposted on social media.

"Although I am not a fan of Kobe, I have always respected and will forever respect him as a great basketball player and a great man. I will also remember the no. 24 with his iconic fade-away shot," said a Weibo user called "Yoho hush".

The mentality of the "Black Mamba" and his line of "Have ever seen Los Angeles at 4 am?" was quoted by many as their inspiration in adversity.

"Mamba mentality supported me every night during the training session. When I felt exhausted in running, I shouted your name and felt my body invigorated. I tried to practice basketball at 4 am as you did when I was a child. Every time I encounter difficulties, Mamba mentality pushed me forward and encouraged me to carry on," a user called "Lillarge" commented on the basketball website Hupu.

"My students were down after not performing well in their final exams last semester and I told them the story of Kobe started training at 4 am. Your Mamba Mentality will forever inspire the young generation," said a Weibo user called "Nancy". 

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