Dubai: As tributes to Kobe Bryant continue to pour from all over the world, local basketball players and aficionados in Dubai are planning to honour the late basketball legend in their own way.
A special prayer and candle lighting will be held on Wednesday at 8:30pm at Satwa Park basketball court while a one-day basketball tournament is set over the weekend.
“We are calling on all Kobe Bryant fans in Dubai and the UAE to join us in celebrating the life and times of our beloved basketball idol. Kobe has dedicated his life to the sport and we can’t thank him enough for what he did on and off the basketball court,” Dubai resident and avid Bryant fan Macoy Macalinao told Gulf News.
“It’s Mamba Out – referring to the line Bryant famously uttered upon his retirement from professional basketball – please come in Kobe Bryant outfit or jersey; wear Kobe shoes or bring any basketball memorabilia,” he added.
The tribute to Bryant will continue over the weekend with a one-day league for players aged above 40 years old. Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash, died with his daughter at age 41.
“We are almost the same age as Kobe. We started playing basketball the same age he started shooting hoops. We followed his rise to basketball stardom and we admired his talent and skills. Some of us even tried to imitate his signature moves while we play the game,” Arnel Fernandez, basketball organiser and founder of OldSchool Basketboleros, said.
“Many of us were really affected upon hearing the news of Kobe’s death. We all wished it was a hoax. After hearing his death, many of us changed our profile photo on social with our favourite Kobe picture and quote,” he added.
Fernandez said they will be wearing basketball jersey emblazoned with the image of Bryant during the games.
“Also, in honour of Kobe we will start the game with 24-second violation each to be incurred the opposing teams – 24 is one of the numbers donned by Kobe. After the tournament, we will choose Kobe MVP (most valuable palyer) and Kobe Mythical 5” he added.
Fernandez expects families and friends to watch the games. He said: “Kobe loved his family. The basketball community in Dubai is one big family and we felt like we lost a beloved family member.”