Chinese basketball fans marked the anniversary of Kobe Bryant ’s death on Tuesday by paying their respects on social media in the millions. “Hashtags such as ‘death of Kobe’, which was read 6.6 billion times online, along with ‘one year after Kobe’s death’ and ‘Mamba spirit’ were trending on social platform Sina Weibo on Tuesday,” reported the English-language Global Times . “One year after Kobe’s death” had 410 million reads on the microblogging site, while “Kobe left this year” had 300 million reads. There were millions of posts from individuals sharing their memories of Bryant. The original outpouring of grief on Chinese social media at the news of Bryant’s death last January was among the biggest search terms of the year on Weibo. The NBA legend, who died in a helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others, had long been a favourite with Chinese fans. He made annual visits to the country with his first coming in 1998 and he was on the USA team that won Olympic gold at the Beijing Olympic Games a decade later. Former Lakers lead the way with tributes as China mourns Kobe Bryant “It’s harder for me to walk around here than in the States,” Bryant said during a visit in 2013 to play in the NBA Global Games with the Los Angeles Lakers. “In the States, you get a lot of recognition. They say, ‘Hi.’ They want autographs and pictures. But here, it’s uncontrollable. They rush you and surround you to the point where you can’t go out.” Bryant was the most followed basketball player on Chinese social media even after he retired, according to the 2018 Red Card Report by sports marketing firm Mailman. He still has more than 10 million followers on his Weibo account, where he posted a video days before his death wishing Chinese fans a happy Lunar New Year. “Happy new year, my dear friends in China. Thank you for your support this year where you’ve shown passion and dedication through your hard work. Beloved Kobe Bryant paved the way into China’s hearts “I wish you happiness, health and inner magic to achieve more success in the upcoming year of the mouse [rat]. Love, Kobe.” His last visit to China came in August 2019 for the 2019 Fiba World Cup, where he travelled to Guangzhou. A mural in the city, which also has a statue of Bryant, is one of many public art pieces globally to memorialise the NBA superstar.