Thousands of people cry to Kobe Bryant

LOS ANGELES: Tens of thousands of Kobe Bryant Fans flooded the grounds around the Staples Center on Friday before the first game of their former team since their death in a helicopter crash earlier this week that surprised basketball fans in the city and around the world.

Fans wearing Bryant t-shirts and shirts placed flowers, wrote messages on temporarily erected white walls and shared stories of the 41-year-old man, who died along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people on Sunday.

Kobe Bryant meant a lot to me. I've been watching him for 20 years since he came into the league and I just love him, said Lakers fan Karina Mendoza.

I want to thank you for everything you have done for us here in Los Angeles.

It is a sad and beautiful day. You can see all the people here and all the Lakers fans. We are like a family. I love you Kobe, I love you Gigi and all the families.

Inside the arena, where tributes were expected throughout the game, Kobe and Gianna shirts were placed in the two seats next to the court where the couple sat in their last Lakers game.

I was surprised to see how much it affected me as soon as I got here and saw these makeshift monuments, said Jim Bendat, a 71-year-old Lakers fan.

My children grew up with Kobe and Kobe meant a lot to my three children. So I experienced all that together with my children.

It's almost like losing a child in some way.

Bryant and the other eight died when the helicopter leading to a women's basketball tournament crashed in hazy weather on a hillside northwest of Los Angeles.

After Bryant's death, the National Basketball Association ( NBA ) canceled a game scheduled for the Staples Center on Tuesday between the Lakers and the Angles Clippers, citing the need to give the team time to cry.

Vogel said this week that the tragedy was bringing the Lakers leaders of the Western Conference, an already united group, even more united and accredited team leaders. Lebron James and Anthony Davis with helping players manage their emotions.

I am heartbroken and devastated to my brother! James, who was seen crying at the Los Angeles International Airport on Bryant's death, wrote on Instagram on Monday. I promise I will continue with your legacy, man!

Earlier on Friday, James published a photo of a new tattoo depicting a snake and the words Mamba 4 Life, a reference to the nickname of Bryant Black Mamba.

Davis posted an Instagram photo of the two sitting side by side at the 2012 Olympics.

Thursday's practice began with some football in an outdoor field near the Lakers practice facilities in what Vogel called the therapeutic sun of Southern California.

We are achieving a balance by trying to make ourselves feel good, Vogel said. Laughter is always a good remedy for something like this when appropriate.

It was not clear if the surviving members of Bryant's family would attend Friday's game. Her widow, Vanessa, posted a photo of her with her late husband and four daughters on Instagram on Wednesday, her first public comment since her death.

Vanessa Bryant, 37, in the publication described herself and the surviving daughters as completely devastated, and thanked fans for their support.

Although Friday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers will mark the first for the Lakers since his death, Bryant was remembered at the Staples Center on Sunday night by the artists at the Grammy Awards when fans gathered outside the arena at a spontaneous wakefulness

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said the Oscar ceremony on February 9 would include a greeting to Bryant.