LOS ANGELES -- Hundreds of thousands of people have cycled through the L.A. Live campus outside Staples Center in the days since Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died Sunday in a helicopter crash. Flowers, candles, jerseys, stuffed animals, balloons, letters and other tokens line the street outside the home arena where Bryant starred for the Los Angeles Lakers during his 20-season career.
But as the Lakers prepare to play their first game since Bryant's passing, against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday evening at Staples Center, officials are asking that fans do not visit L.A. Live, where the game will not be shown on the LED screens outside the arena.
"If you do not have a ticket tonight for the Lakers game, do not come down to L.A. Live," said Lee Zeidman, the president of Staples Center, Microsoft Theater and L.A. Live. "Stay home with your loved ones. It's going to be a tremendous emotional tribute to Kobe, Gianna and the seven others and you don't want to miss it. We're not showing it on any LED screens here in downtown Los Angeles, so stay home with your loved ones, watch this tremendous tribute by the Los Angeles Lakers to the Bryant family and the others who lost their lives and hug your loved ones tonight, because you just never know."
Zeidman said L.A. Live has been honored by the massive tribute to not only Kobe and Gianna but also the others who lost their lives.
"We fully believed this is where people needed to be and needed to come and we felt that it was our duty to provide that outlet to everybody, and it's worked phenomenally," he said.
Zeidman estimated that the total number of visitors has been "in the hundreds of thousands" in the 24-hour cycle every day since Sunday's crash. He also shared details about what will happen with all the items that have been left outside Staples Center.
"Our plan now is to start to ramp down after the Super Bowl," he said. "We're going to catalog all the items, i.e., the basketballs, the letters, the jerseys, the toys, the stuffed animals, and we're going to box those up and we're going to give them to Vanessa Bryant and the girls.
"We're going to take all the perishables, i.e., the flowers and the plants, and we're going to do something that they did [after] the tragic Manchester bombing [in 2017] where Ariana Grande was singing. Our plan is to get with a company and grind up all those flowers into mulch and spread it around L.A. Live and Staples Center in our planters, because we felt what they did was a tremendous tribute.
"This means that all that love and outpouring from all the fans who have brought things down here to donate will still be here around our campus when we're done."
He added, "Once we catalog all that and put it together and get it ready for them, we will assess where we are. We plan on putting signs out Monday morning that due to other contractually obligated events, please do not bring items down to L.A. Live and Staples Center. But we encourage you to make donations of whatever [amount] that you can to MambaSportsFoundation.org and MambaOnThree.org. We encourage you to do that instead of bringing additional items here."