In this photo dated December 14, 2001, Kobe Bryant, then an NBA player for the Los Angeles Lakers, poses with a jersey after he was named the newest ambassador for the city of Kobe, Japan, before a game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA. Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26, 2020. Tetsunori Tanimoto, an employee of the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association in Kobe, central Japan, expressed his heartfelt condolences to Kobe Bryant. “He has helped make Kobe Beef known worldwide,” Tanimoto said in a phone interview with The Associated Press Monday. (Kyodo news via AP)

BEIJING – Kobe Bryant was an extremely popular figure in Asia, no more than in China, where basketball competed with football as the most popular sport.

However, his Sunday of death in a helicopter accident comes at a bad time between the country and the league. National broadcaster CCTC launched all NBA games after a tweet in October from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who expressed support for the protests for democracy in Hong Kong.

The Chinese basketball association, led by ex-missile MVP Yao Ming, has announced plans to end cooperation with the Texas-based team. Yao and the association have yet to comment on the crash Sunday in California when Bryant, daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed.

However, Yi Jianlian, the other Chinese player who has had great success in the NBA, visited the Weibo Chinese microblogging website to commend Bryant for teaching him the value of persistence.

“Thank you very much! Kobe! Hope father and daughter continue to enjoy basketball in heaven! We will always remember you!” Wrote Yi, who signed with six different NBA teams in 2016, including the Lakers for short Peace of the Legend, ”he added in English.

Bryant’s popularity among Chinese fans was only surpassed by Yao, LeBron James and Michael Jordan. His appearances, including the 2008 US Summer Olympics in Beijing, have been far surpassed by advertising in the country, both for his own brand and for basketball in general. In a preparatory game for the Lakers 2013 against Golden State in Beijing, the arena sounded with songs from “Kobe! Kobe! “, Although the injured superstar wasn’t even prepared for the game.

The memorial service begins online, many with photos of Yao and Gianna with the letters R.I.P. Others showed the two in uniform running away in clouds under a basketball net.

“For our generation, our memories of the NBA begin with Jordan and pass through Kobe and Yao Ming. You were part of our youth. The bright sun of Kobe is already missing. It’s going well, ”wrote commentator“ ZhanHao ”on the popular Twitter-like Weibo news service.

“Your willpower has inspired a generation. Thank you, teacher Kai Ting wrote. I hope there is basketball in heaven. Kobe has just gone to another world to play basketball with his daughter, ”wrote Cici.

The Australian Open expressed condolences to the grieving families, and Romanian Simona Halep, after her fourth round win, said that Bryant’s death was “a great loss to the world, to sport”. Australian tennis legend Rod Laver tweeted that he was “terribly sad” to wake up to the news. “

In Taiwan, where the NBA is also a huge draw, President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted that her “thoughts are directed to the Bryant family and the families of all those who have lost loved ones today.”

“Kobe has inspired a generation of young Taiwanese basketball players, and his legacy will live on from those who loved him,” Tsai wrote.

The Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo noted that Bryant was often in the Philippines. “He was very popular with his Filipino fans,” Panelo said in a statement.

“With his dexterity and accuracy, he was an unforgettable sight on the hard court when he sank this ball into the ring. He was a master of his trade. The basketball world has lost one of its legendary sizes, ”said Panelo. “The palace extends its deepest condolences to family, friends, colleagues, relatives and fans around the world that Kobe has left behind. We share their grief. “

In Japan, Tetsunori Tanimoto, an official of the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association in Kobe, central Japan, expressed his condolences to the death of Kobe Bryant.

“He helped make Kobe Beef known worldwide,” he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press Monday.

According to legend, Kobe got its name after his father ate Kobe beef during a visit to Japan and loved the taste.

Tanimoto, who watches NBA games on TV but has never met Bryant, said people knew how Bryant got his name.

“We have always felt close to him,” he said. “It is so sad. And we express our deepest condolences to you.”

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