Kobe Bryant's popularity stretched far beyond the United States. He was a global icon and especially loved in Asia.
Following the NBA star's shocking death on Sunday, the entire sports world grieved and shared fond memories of Bryant all over social media.
Rui Hachimura grew up in Japan idolizing Bryant, so he took to Twitter a day after the accident to share his thoughts on his hero.
"I was very shocked to hear of this incident," Hachimura said. "I really can't believe it. I can't speak. Kobe is also a hero to me, and I've seen [him] a lot since I was little. I have met him only once.
"Three years ago, during [the] Final 4, [Bryant gave] a special pair of shoes as a surprise to the team," he said. "Not only that, he talked about what Mamba Mentality is and what people should be before basketball players.
"He was more than just a basketball player," he said. "It is really sad that this accident was like this. I wish good luck to his family and those who have been involved in this accident. Thanks, Kobe."
After Michael Jordan retired, Bryant became the most popular player in Japan. Along with Hachimura, he inspired players like Grizzlies forward Yuta Watanabe to play the game of basketball in the first place.
Similar to what made Bryant so popular in the United States, Japan loved him for his tireless work ethic and killer instinct on the court. That's what earned him 15 All-NBA selections and five NBA titles, and along with his efforts off the court post-retirement, earned him the love and respect of so many people around the world.
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