Pinoy Kobe Bryant fans have ‘Staples Center’ meetup at Araneta Coliseum

Dominic Menor, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2020 02:18 AM | Updated as of Jan 28 2020 09:42 AM

Filipino fans of Kobe Bryant gather for a memorial honoring the basketball icon at Araneta Coliseum on Monday night. Fernando Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Filipino fans of Kobe Bryant gather for a memorial honoring the basketball icon at Araneta Coliseum on Monday night. Fernando Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Filipino fans of Kobe Bryant gather for a memorial honoring the basketball icon at Araneta Coliseum on Monday night. Fernando Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Filipino fans of Kobe Bryant gather for a memorial honoring the basketball icon at Araneta Coliseum on Monday night. Fernando Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Araneta Coliseum is lit up in purple, the color attached to the Los Angeles Lakers, to honor Kobe Bryant on Monday night. Fernando Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Like all Kobe Bryant supporters around the globe, Joma Guevarra was in utter disbelief when he heard the news on Monday morning that the Los Angeles Lakers legend died.

“Di ako naniwala. (Pero) tiningnan ko sa timeline, legit nga siya,” said Guevarra, a Quezon City resident who like many Filipinos on this side of the world woke up to the news of Bryant’s passing.

The tragedy brought various Filipino fan clubs together on social media, where they consoled one another and shared their favorite stories of the basketball icon. 

But for some ardent devotees, meeting virtually wasn’t enough.

“Habang nagsi-scroll ako, meron akong nakitang isang group na nag-chat na sana katulad sa Staples Center daw na may mga gathering para kay Kobe,” Guevarra said. 

The result was the fan meetup at Araneta Coliseum on Monday night, which drew a sizable crowd that enthusiastically followed the Black Mamba’s Hall of Fame career.

When word of the plan eventually got out, Frisco Marquez said it wasn’t hard to get people he knew to say yes.

“Sinabi lang sa akin ng isang friend ko na meron nga raw parang tribute to Kobe. Binigay sa akin ’yung details, then ini-spread ko na sa grupo,” Marquez said.

“Maraming nag-comment, maraming willing na pumunta rito.”

Guevarra sought the help of somebody like Marquez, an administrator of a Filipino Lakers fan group on Facebook. 

Multiply that with several other such organizations, and the response to the call-out was better than what the coordinators had anticipated. Guevarra estimated that at least a thousand attended the Big Dome makeshift memorial.

“Hindi nga namin ini-expect na ganito karami. Ini-expect namin mga 30, 40 lang ganu’n,” Guevarra said.

When details on their end were sorted, the group then reached out to Araneta management and asked permission to hold the gathering. To Guevarra and co.’s surprise, their request was approved.

Bryant and the Big Dome have a connection, because Bryant played an exhibition game there in July 2011.

“Very thankful kami sa Araneta,” said Jona Antonio, one of the main coordinators.

Held at the Big Dome’s lobby, the meetup opened at 8:24 p.m. — a nod to Bryant’s jersey numbers — and closed some two hours later.

Fans formed a queue leading to a massive tarpaulin where they can scribble their messages to Bryant. They also set up a small shrine, where people offered flowers, lit candles and placed homemade posters. Araneta also illuminated the area in Laker purple. 

Some supporters would burst into energetic chants of "Kobe, Kobe, Kobe!"

Like Guevarra and Marquez, Antonio said she has been a Laker fan since the early-2000s dynasty that featured Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

She said the pain she felt upon learning of Bryant’s death could be irrational to some, but only people who idolized the NBA legend can understand.

“For others OA, pero iba talaga kapag nakalakihan mo sila,” Antonio said. “Hero ng iba si Batman, si Superman, pero as a Laker fan, hero namin si Kobe.”

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