Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist and Lakers superfan Flea wore his love for NBA legend Kobe Bryant on his literal sleeve Friday, when he and his fashion-designer wife, Melody Ehsani, attended the first Lakers game since Bryant’s shocking Jan. 26 death in matching airbrushed Kobe tribute outfits. Flea posted a courtside photo of custom purple-and-yellow ensembles on his Instagram with the caption “Kobe and Gianna Forever,” and told Access SportsNet that he’d picked them up the from an artist named Sketch, a.k.a. Andre Hampton, at Los Angeles’s Slauson Swap Meet. Bleacher Report tweeted that the gesture was “L.A. to the core.”
Flea, who first met Bryant when the basketball star was only 17 and actually played the national anthem at Bryant’s final Lakers game 2016 (as seen below), has posted several Instagram tributes to Bryant over the past week, saying he was “humbled in [Kobe’s] presence.” He sat down with Access SportsNet Friday to eloquently share his thoughts about the legacy and loss of Bryant.
“On this day today, Kobe in death as in life brings us all together,” Flea said. “And the beautiful thing about sports, and I just love basketball with all my heart, is that it brings everybody together, all ethnicities, all economic classes, all, everybody. It's something we can all get together and it's beautiful. Like any great art form. And basketball is a great art form. And Kobe Bryant, like that kind of diligence, intelligence, craftsmanship, discipline — it's inspiring to people. It's not just losing an icon, not just losing a famous person or someone who was great. Kobe was more than that for everybody. And that's why people mourn. That's why the city is mourning. Kobe was an ethos. Kobe was a way of life. Kobe was an inspiration.”
Flea continued: “Everybody knows Kobe got up at 4 o'clock in the morning to work out. He came back every season and added it to his game. And we got to watch him evolve as a human being in the beginning of his career as this young, arrogant, intense guy, and we got to see him become kinder, more aware of the people around him, learn how to lift up his teammates and in his retirement to see the beauty of this love for his children and working to uplift women's basketball and all that. … All that focus was always in service of love, ultimately, and that's why we grieve, even if we don't really know why. Sometimes it's like, ‘Why do I feel I was in shock?’ I was weeping all day. You know, this guy just like disappears into this life force, this person who was moving along doing so much — and then he's gone. It's a real shock and we loved him and this city will always be different, and there's always be a big hole that no one else can ever fill.”
Friday’s emotional Lakers game featured an opening performance of “Amazing Grace” by Usher, the national anthem by Boyz II Men (who’d also been at the Staples Center Sunday for the Grammys’ last-minute tribute to Bryant), and a duet of “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth.
This weekend, Flea is also mourning the death of Andy Gill, founder of the extremely influential post-punk band Gang of Four and producer of the Chili Peppers’ self-titled debut album in 1984. Flea once described Gang of Four as “the first rock band I could truly relate to.”
On Instagram and Twitter, the bassist posted: “Andy Gill, one of my favorite guitar players of all time has left us. Go listen to the Gang of Four album Entertainment! right now. Turn that s*** up loud and rock the f*** out. Dance. Think. That’s a record that changed my life forever, and was massively influential on my development as a musician, and showed me what a rock band could be. There is nothing else like it. It cut a f***ing hole right the thick L.A. smog that I wanted to jump through. After not being in touch for many years, Andy and I had spoken recently, and communicated a lot of over the last several months about a Gang of Four tribute album he was putting together. Myself, [Chili Peppers guitarist] John Frusciante, and the youth choir from the Silverlake Conservatory of Music just finished recording a track for it, and sent in to Andy on Monday. I am shocked. Andy was one of my heroes, a man who inspired the s*** out of [late Chili Peppers guitarist] Hillel [Slovak], [frontman] Anthony [Kiedis], and I as youngsters; I was thrilled beyond belief when he agreed to produce our first album. May his beautiful soul be in bliss with the divine, I love you Andy.”
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