Drivers on Lake Avenue in Pasadena honked their horns late Sunday afternoon as Ron Bonilla drove his black-matte 2007 Toyota Tundra — with personal license plate KNG KOBE and a Lakers flag at half-mast — through traffic.
Bonilla, 48, has been a Lakers fan since 1979, when Magic Johnson joined the team.
“I’ve never felt so connected to any athlete or artist or entertainer as I felt with Kobe,” said Bonilla, proudly wearing Bryant’s No. 24 jersey and a Lakers cap.
Bonilla admires and roots for LeBron James, but he said he got the license plate out of respect for Bryant, who died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.
“People are giving King James that title — and I’m like no,” Bonilla said. “I mean, I love LeBron, he’s arguably one of the greatest, but there’s one King of L.A., and that’s Kobe Bryant.
“Maybe that will be LeBron James too, but right now it hasn’t happened.”
Bonilla said he wanted to drive around Sunday to mourn and connect with other Bryant fans, who offered condolences and props when they saw his truck.
“Got to love the art that he made on the basketball court,” Bonilla said. “Man, it was just amazing.”