Today’s column was intended to be about how Premier League clubs want to change how the summer transfer window functions, but a much more important and surreal event occurred and should be talked about. The transfer window column will happen at a later time.
On Sunday, the entire world froze upon hearing the news that former Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna and five others, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. While the NBA and the rest of the basketball community mourn his untimely demise, they were not the only people who were shocked by the news.
Throughout Europe, many soccer players and clubs paid tribute to the Black Mamba in any way they could. From Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s posts on Instagram and Twitter, respectively, to Neymar Jr.’s goal celebration in which he held up the number 24, Bryant’s death impacted more than just basketball fans and players.
Kobe did have a rather large connection and presence within the soccer community. Growing up in Italy during his childhood years, soccer was virtually around him. The one club that he truly supported growing up was A.C. Milan; and they too paid tribute to Bryant’s death on Twitter.
In loving memory of a true legend: Kobe Bryant ❤ pic.twitter.com/4Ysb6FhZeQ
— AC Milan (@acmilan) January 27, 2020
In a 2013 Twitter video that A.C. Milan posted on Monday, Bryant discussed how much the club meant to him and some of the players he grew up watching, including Ruud Guillit and Marco van Basten.
“I have been an A.C. Milan supporter since I was a boy. Being here is a great honor for me,” Bryant said. “It always has a special place in my heart. Back in L.A. I have a Milan scarf and shirt hanging up in my locker room.”
FC Barcelona posted a thread of photos on Twitter marking the times Bryant visited the Blaugrana and many other interactions he had with the club. Some photos include the club’s 2006 visit to L.A. where he’s pictured with Barcelona legend Ronaldinho and his visit to the Mini Estadi the year after and the club’s last visit to Los Angeles with Kobe in 2015, when they won the treble, to name a few.
Following his goal and celebration, Neymar commented on Kobe’s death in a post-match interview.
“It is a great sadness for the world of sport, and for all of us. Not just for basketball fans, but also for everything he did for the sport,” he said. “I knew him and I did his celebration to pay tribute to him… I hope he will rest in peace.”
Kobe Bryant & Barça, a story of mutual admiration
👇Thread 👇 pic.twitter.com/p5jShDcDsr
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 27, 2020
While I may only know soccer, I still knew grew up knowing how fantastic of a player and person Kobe was. His presence in soccer made me aware of how his “Mamba Mentality” influenced the players he interacted with. Rest in peace to the king of the court, his daughter and everyone else who was in the crash.