The death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and 13-year-old daughter Gianna Monday morning in California is considered the crash heard around the world — even in tiny Marshall Islands thousands of miles away in the central Pacific.
Hundreds of Marshallese, some of whom named their sons after Kobe, took to social media to express sympathy to the family and pay tribute to the Mamba.
Sheldon Jacob from Ebeye named his son Kobe after the iconic player, a five-time NBA championship ring winner. Kobe Jacob is now 16 years old. Sheldon said his son painted a tribute mural in his room following Monday’s tragic accident.
Billy Aloka David from Majuro and Sammy Juda from Ebeye both named their sons Kobe. Both Kobes are eight years old.
“It hurts me, like deep inside,” Billy told the Journal. “The loss of families, I can’t even imagine. I mean as torn up as I am, I just can’t imagine,” he added.
“We use to shout out ‘Kobe’ whenever we shoot at the hoop and score a basket,” Sammy said, adding that Kobe was popular at the Lojkar basketball court where he used to play when he was younger.
The Marshall Islands Basketball Federation also paid tribute to Kobe, all the while honoring all the individuals lost on the same helicopter to include: Kobe, daughter Gianna, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Ara Zobayan, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli and Christina Mauser.
The father-daughter bond shared by Kobe and Gianna can be reflected with Anjo Kabua and daughter Moj Reimers, two diehard fans from Ebeye.
Anjo has been following the Lakers since his elementary days and became a more religious follower when Kobe joined the Lakers in 1996.
Anjo said his daughter often refers to Kobe as her pretend husband and was literally crying when she heard the news. Anjo said his daughter’s 18th birthday celebration had the Lakers theme in honor of her late pretend husband.
The same father-son bond is known on Ebeye with the late Reverend Pijja Matauto and son, now longtime Ebeye Pastor, Reverend Lawson Matauto. A family portrait of Rev. Lawson on his 60th birthday shows his entire family and grandchildren outfitted in Lakers gear.
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