KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Orlando City began its final training in Florida before the team’s preseason trip to Mexico on a somber note, holding a moment of silence at center pitch to honor NBA star Kobe Bryant.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday.
The Lions wrapped their arms around each other as they huddled and took a moment to pray for the father-daughter pair and for all nine of the lives lost during the crash.
A moment of silence to remember that life is bigger than the game. pic.twitter.com/Tw0trzG2so
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) January 27, 2020
News of Bryant’s death shook the sports world on Sunday, and it hit close to home for the soccer community. An avid fan of the game, Bryant traveled across the country and around the world to catch games in all of the major leagues. He had recently partnered with MLS in connection with the sports drink BodyArmor, voicing his support for the league’s growth.
Orlando City captain Nani had met Bryant at MLS Media Day less than two weeks before his death.
“Kobe, just 10 days ago I had the pleasure of meeting you and felt what a great human being you were,” Nani said in a post on social media. “I really thank you for some of the kind words you said when we spoke. I am so sad that you are gone. Rest in peace.”
Kobe just 10 days ago I had the pleasure of meeting you and felt what a great human being you were. I really thank you for some of the kind words you said when we spoke. I am so sad that you are gone. Rest in peace. #rip #kobe pic.twitter.com/viUHR5F2P2
— Nani (@luisnani) January 26, 2020
On an overcast morning in Kissimmee, Bryant’s loss cast a pall over training. An Orlando City staff member wore a Kobe No. 8 Lakers jersey over a hoodie as he went about work around the training grounds.
Midfielder Júnior Urso — a basketball fan who sports a Russell Westbrook tattoo on his leg — attended the Orlando Magic game against the Clippers on Sunday, posting stories to his Instagram as the team honored Bryant. Many Orlando City players honored Bryant and his daughter with posts on social media.
“This can’t be real!” defender Kamal Miller posted on Twitter. “My stomach is turning. RIP to the greatest.”
This can’t be real! My stomach is turning. RIP to the greatest 🕊 💔 pic.twitter.com/NTNZmMCFKP
— Kamal Miller (@KMillz_00) January 26, 2020
“Kobe and Gigi… truly devastated and at a loss for words,” striker Dom Dwyer said in a similar post. “We miss you already. Our deepest condolences to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers. Natalia, Bianka, Capri and Vanessa, we love you and we are always here for you. Rest easy friend.”
Kobe & Gigi…Truly devastated & at a loss for words. We miss you already. Our deepest condolences to the Bryant family & the families of the other passengers. Natalia, Bianka, Capri & Vanessa, we love you & we are always here for you.
Rest easy friend 😔#mambaforever pic.twitter.com/TXOVeTSyjj
— Dom Dwyer (@Ddwyer14) January 27, 2020