Kobe Bryant's death is top news in China, with one hashtag drawing 4 billion views - SupChina
Free

We're a new type of news publication

China news you won't read elsewhere.

Weekly Newsletter

Get a roundup of the most important and interesting stories coming out of China.

Podcasts

Sinica, TechBuzz China, and our 6 other shows are the undisputed champs of China podcasts. Listen now.

Feature Articles

Interactive, web-based deep dives into the real China.

Premium

Join the thousands of executives, diplomats, and journalists that rely on SupChina for daily analysis of the full China story.

Daily Newsletter

All the news, every day. Premium analysis directly from our Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Goldkorn.

24/7 Slack Community

Have China-related questions and want answers? Our Slack community is a place to learn, network, and opine.

Free Live Events & More

Monthly live conference calls with leading experts, free entry to SupChina live events in cities around the world, and more.

"A jewel in the crown of China reporting. I go to it, look for it daily. Why? It adds so much insight into the real China. Essential news, culture, color. I find SupChina superior."
— Max Baucus, former U.S. Ambassador to China

Free

We're a new type of news publication

China news you won't read elsewhere.

Weekly Newsletter

Get a roundup of the most important and interesting stories coming out of China.

Podcasts

Sinica, TechBuzz China, and our 6 other shows are the undisputed champs of China podcasts. Listen now.

Feature Articles

Interactive, web-based deep dives into the real China.

OR… for more in-depth analysis and an online community of China-focused professionals:

Learn About Premium Access Now!
Learn More
Minimize
Learn More
Minimize

Kobe Bryant’s death is top news in China, with one hashtag drawing 4 billion views

Kobe Bryant’s death on Sunday in a helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, shook the sports world.

Halfway around the world, in a country battling a public health emergency in the form of a coronavirus, it was Kobe’s death that dominated online chatter.

The retired Lakers star and global icon had special significance for Chinese fans. More so in China than anywhere else, Kobe was anointed early on as the heir apparent to Michael Jordan; while Chinese fans only witnessed the latter half of Jordan’s career, they followed Kobe’s every move from the beginning. His popularity perhaps even exceeded that of homegrown basketball legend Yáo Míng 姚明.

High-profile TV commercials, sponsorships, and charitable ventures made Kobe a household name. As ESPN points out, “At a 2013 Lakers preseason game against the Golden State Warriors in Beijing, the arena rang out with chants of ‘Kobe! Kobe!’ despite the injured superstar not even suiting up for the game.” When Kobe briefly stepped onto the court during the gold medal game at the FIBA World Cup in Beijing over the summer, it was clear that he commanded every eye.

At 7:38 pm Beijing time on Monday, the official Sina Weibo account of the NBA posted an article titled, “Mamba Out: I will still miss you a thousand times over,” using the hashtag #FORKOBE# — a hashtag that has since drawn 86 million views. Meanwhile, the hashtag #科比去世# (kēbǐ qùshì — #KobeDead), which was posted in the morning, has racked up more than 4 billion views, by far the most of any topic during the day.

image3 1

Screen Shot 2020 01 27 at 1.36.55 PM

Sina Sports also issued a series of posts looking back at Kobe’s career highlights and his impact on Chinese basketball fans. It also included updates on the helicopter crash that claimed his and eight other lives.

Standing out among the posts was an interview from 2016, when Kobe was asked about his opinion on death. In the clip, Kobe calmly said that there wouldn’t be life without death, and that he viewed it as a natural part of the process.

image5 1

Over the day, Kobe’s pictures with his daughter and family, his posters and quotes, filled up WeChat Moments (similar to Facebook’s news feed). For diehard fans who have followed his career since their youth, this felt like an end of an era.

Thousands of people expressed their condolences on Weibo and WeChat, sharing personal memories of watching the “Black Mamba.”

image7

Translations:

1) My man*, post an Instagram, stop scaring me

2) wtf…

3) it’s not real it’s not real it can’t be real

4) Tonight for strange and unexplainable reasons I couldn’t sleep. Boss, you’ve really given me a fright

5) RIP Kobe

* Translated for meaning, 老大 lǎodà here can be “king/legend/boss”

image2

“Ironed my Kobe jersey, brushed the dust off my Kobe penholder, how I wish I could go back to that day when I balled out in my Kobe 4’s.”

image6

Translation 1: “More or less everything basketball-related all started with you
Grew accustomed to life and death, but your death I will never get used to”

Translation 2: “All the best on your journey”

image8

First caption: “From now on, Los Angeles at 4 a.m. will never again see light” (a reference to Kobe’s work ethic). Second caption: “Swapped my profile pic. RIP”

image4

“From zk5 [Nike Zoom Kobe V] to Kobe12, I will love you 3,000 times over. Goodbye my youth.”

Some people reposted Kobe’s narration of “Dear Basketball,” an animated short film that won him an Oscar in 2018. The image of Kobe as a kid playing basketball with rolled-up socks is forever inscribed in the memory of Chinese fans.

image10

image9

image1 1

“Life is fragile, the living should cherish it more dearly”

Cyan Zhong

Cyan Zhong is a writer and content strategist working in New York City. She graduated from Northwestern University with a M.S. in journalism and UW-Madison with a B.A. in journalism. She loves writing about technology and analyzing its impact on society, the environment, media, and people. She is well-versed in both complex global issues and internet trends and memes. Cross-cultural storytelling is her strength and passion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.