Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, was filled with sobbing emojis today as Chinese netizens paid tribute to Kobe Bryant’s last NBA game with mournful tweets and nostalgic messages.

Hashtags like “It’s not just a game” (不只是比赛) and “I was alive during the time of Kobe” (我活在科比的时代) have flooded Weibo’s newsfeed, and celebrities, such as Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou and Chinese actor Yifeng Li, are honoring Bryant’s 20-year career with throwback pictures of the time they hung out with the “Black Mamba.”

China’s obsession with the NBA spans decades, which many trace back to 2002 when 7-foot tall Chinese basketball player Yao Ming was drafted by the Houston Rockets. In 2007, over 200 million Chinese people tuned in to one of the most watched NBA games of all time, when Yao Ming faced off another Chinese basketball player, Yi Jianlian, in a match between the Houston Rockets and the Milwaukee Bucks. In comparison, an average of 15.5 million Americans are estimated to watch NBA Finals on T.V.

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Eva Xiao

Eva Xiao is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. Contact her at eva.xiao@technode.com or evawxiao (wechat & twitter).