8 Times Kobe Bryant Loved Canada & Canada Loved Him Back
The grief many people are feeling at the death of Kobe Bryant will likely take a long time to pass. Throughout his NBA career, the "Black Mamba" became an icon and some even credit him with changing the very way the game was played. And while he never played for a team north of the border, Kobe Bryant's Canada connections saw him idolized in the true north, too.
For a start, the game often described as the pinnacle of Kobe's abilities took place in Toronto against the Raptors back in 2006.
The Lakers legend destroyed the Raps with a total of 81 points, described by the league as "one of the greatest single-game performances in NBA history."
The moment stunned everyone, even Kobe himself.
"Not even in my dreams," said Kobe about the moment, according to the NBA. "That was something that just happened. It's tough to explain. It's just one of those things."
In a funny way, the miracle moment might have helped boost the Canadian franchise's profile.
But Kobe didn't just dominate northern opponents. He shared a friendship with a former Raptor that lasted most of his life, took in the odd hockey game, and was honoured by Canadian teams and players alike.
So, in honour of the former No. 8, here are eight times Kobe Bryant showed some love to Canada and they loved him right back.
DeMar's Gift For His Idol
After Kobe's final regular-season game in Canada in 2015, Mamba made it clear he didn't want teams making a big deal out of his imminent retirement.
Then-Raptor DeMar DeRozan didn't listen, though. Sole Collector. They were decked out in graphics that honoured Kobe, with some Raptors additions.gave the vet a pair of custom "Liquid Gold" Nike Kobe 10 EXT Mids, as shown on
An Honorary Oiler
There's no doubt Kobe had an admiration for Canada and vice versa. And it seems he wasn't afraid to branch out to hockey, either. This Edmonton Oilers look from the 2002 NBA Finals is a Canadian cult moment.
Oilers captain Connor McDavid, whose name was on a jersey given to Bryant as yet another retirement gift back in 2016, remembered seeing Kobe play live in his final NBA season. "It was pretty special," he said this week.
His Final Bow In The 6ix
Kobe's last-ever All-Star appearance was actually in the 6ix back in 2016, when Toronto's Air Canada Centre hosted. His then preteen daughter Gianna, who also passed in the recent tragic helicopter crash, was by his side.
The 18-time All-Star's curtain call was a celebration of a monumental career. And seeing Kobe in a shirt emblazoned with "Toronto Canada" definitely brought some chills.
Crew Love From Drake
At that game in 2016, Toronto's very own Raptors ambassador, Drake, was naturally in attendance and he wore this custom-made jacket to honour the legend.
, but this was a special honour for a player whose career meant so much to so many. After Kobe's passing, Drake posted a picture of the garment to his Instagram to say farewell.
Taking In A Leafs Game
Oilers fan? Don't be so sure.
When it came to supporting sports other than basketball, Kobe showed plenty of love for soccer and even showed up in Toronto to watch a good old-fashioned hockey game.
And it was a particularly Canadian game of puck with the Montreal Canadiens playing against the Leafs back in 2014. A true initiation.
More Custom Kicks
Two years after his gift from DeRozan, Kobe and Deebo were immortalized together on a 2018 Kobe A.D. shoe.
The insole showed a graphic of Bryant in his U.S. Olympic uniform, blended into DeMar in his then-Raptors jersey. The heel had the numbers 10/10, representing Kobe's U.S. team jersey and DD's Raptors jersey. Hopefully, DeRozan's been able to dig out a pair of his own this week.
Kobe + Vince, BFFs Forever
Toronto Raptors icon Vince Carter first met Bryant when the duo were teenagers playing youth-level ball. And it blossomed into a close friendship and energizing rivalry on the court.
Kobe entered the NBA in '96 and Vinsanity followed in '98. They were immediately two of the league's best dunkers, with KB winning the Dunk Contest in 1997 and Carter triumphing in 2000.
Back in February 2019, when Kobe was asked why he didn't defend his dunking title against Carter, he gave mad props. "I will enter the things that I know I can win. Nope. I am not gonna have Vince Carter beat me. It's not gonna happen," Bryant said, per the NBA. Now that's respect.
The Ultimate Tribute?
In what would be the ultimate tribute if it were to happen, a teenager from Vancouver started a petition to change the official NBA logo to feature Bryant.
, "He was a role model to me and millions of other people. He’s the reason I love the game of basketball as much as I do."
As of the time of writing, the campaign has over of two million signatures. Two million. Good on you, Nikyar.