'Kobe And Carne Asada' - At Plaza Mexico in Lynwood There Are No More Bryant Jerseys Left For Sale
At Plaza Mexico, a shopping center in Lynwood, most of the Kobe t-shirts and jerseys sold out Sunday, after news of Kobe Bryant's death began to circulate. The Lakers legend, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, perished in a helicopter crash.
One of the plaza's sports memorabilia shop owners, Michelle Jang, woke up early Monday morning and asked her husband to go to the wholesale warehouse that supplies their shop, so he could buy more Kobe Bryant merchandise. It, too, was sold out.
Jang said none of the shops in Plaza Mexico were ready for the demand. People were coming in sad, she said, "because they said the wife is Mexican."
Jang was referring to Kobe's widow Vanessa Bryant, born Vanessa Cornejo Urbieta, a Mexican American native of Southern California.
Nearby, Mayra Jimmenez was working her shift at a clothing store. She said she grew up watching Kobe with her dad, who considered Kobe an "honorary Mexican."
"We would always watch at home doing carne asada," she recalled fondly. "He'd put the game all loud saying, 'go Kobe!' over and over again. [It was] always Kobe and carne asada!"
Kobe was proud of being embraced by the Latino community, saying that he learned to speak Spanish because L.A. Latinos "embraced [him] the hardest." He also frequently talked about his pride in raising Latina daughters.
Debbie Velasquez was also at the plaza Monday, wearing a 10-year-old vintage jersey featuring an image of Kobe printed in gold. It had been hanging in her closet since Kobe retired in 2016.
"When I heard the news I searched my closet, and there it was, just hanging," she said. "I cried so much. Wearing it now feels different," she said.
"I have to wear it today to honor him, his legacy," she explained. "[We're] never going to have another one like him".
For Velasquez, the Lakers legend transcended borders. She said she has cousins all over the world, including Europe, Samoa, Alaska, Detroit and Latin America, all who shed tears for Kobe.
By Monday, all that was left in Plaza Mexico were a few scattered items; a couple of tiny Kobe jerseys for toddlers, a Lakers car flag, a Dwight Howard jersey, and a T-shirt screen printed with the late Nipsey Hussle dressed in Lakers gold.
One shop had a graphic tee of Kobe with his arm around NBA legend Michael Jordan and Lakers superstar LeBron James. Only Kobe's face is visible on the shirt. The other two legends have their backs turned and heads down like they are in mourning, because they are.
MORE KOBE BRYANT COVERAGE
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