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Kobe Bryant’s Most Loyal Fans Aren’t Anywhere Near the U.S.

One basketball-crazed country has been charmed by the 'Black Mamba'

Nov 30, 2015 at 6:18 PM ET

Tributes to Kobe Bryant have poured in from all over the world since his Sunday night announcement that he’ll retire at the end of the season, but among the global salutes to the “Black Mamba,” once source of emotion stood out: the Philippines.

Nowhere is Bryant’s Filipino popularity more evident than in social media data. Breaking down Bryant’s Facebook page likes by country, the Philippines is second in total likes only to the United States (6,619,478) with 3,596,679. For reference, no other country even breaks the 1,000,000 mark. Looking at his likes per capita, the Philippines again comes in second with 3,493 per 100,000 residents. Puerto Rico takes the top spot per capita with 4,074; the United States lags behind in seventh with 2,052.

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The Philippines has a long history with Bryant, and basketball in general. The nation is famous for its rabid basketball fans; numerous NBA stars make trips to Manila as part of sponsorship deals. But with Kobe it’s different.

While other NBA players merely go through the motions on these trips, Bryant has made it a point to embrace Filipinos and their culture. He first visited the Philippines in 1998 when he wowed a crowd at a dunk contest; video of the event only recently surfaced. Kobe was also the marquee name at a 2011 exhibition game in Manila that included Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. The event has become part of Filipino basketball folklore, and Bryant has made regular trips to the country during the offseason ever since. Kobe even weighed in on the officiating during a loss by the Filipino national team.

After Kobe’s retirement announcement, Filipinos took to Twitter to express their admiration for one of arguably the most iconic player since Michael Jordan.