Tributes are pouring in for basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who has been killed in a helicopter crash at the age of 41.
Nine people, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were killed when the private helicopter came down in Calabasas, California, on Sunday morning.
Fellow LA Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal wrote: “There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant (sic).
There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW pic.twitter.com/pigHywq3c1
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 26, 2020
“I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW.”
Former Lakers president Magic Johnson said he was “in disbelief” and had been “crying all morning”.
“It’s hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players,” he added.
Image: Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash
Michael Jordan, widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all-time, said: “I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling.
More from Kobe Bryant
“I loved Kobe – he was like a brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.
“Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball.”
Image: Bryant and Jordan facing off in 1997
Tiger Woods was a friend of Bryant’s and played the final round at the Farmers Insurers Open in San Diego unaware that he had died.
His caddie Joe LaCava broke the news to him at the end of his round, having refrained from telling him between holes, prompting a clearly shocked Woods to exclaim: “Excuse me?”
Image: Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant in 1997
Afterwards, Woods, a lifelong Lakers fan, told reporters :”He came in the league and I turned pro right around the same time and we had our 20-year run together.
“It’s a shocker to everyone, unbelievably sad, and one of the more tragic days. I was just told about five minutes ago.
“Life is very fragile as we all know. You can be gone at any given time and we have to appreciate the moments that we have. I just can’t imagine what his family’s going through right now.”
Image: Bryant was a global superstar
With the 62nd Grammy Awards taking place at the Staples Centre, the same arena where Bryant became a Lakers legend, the biggest night in music opened with a tribute to the NBA star.
Host Alicia Keys said: “We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now. “Because earlier today Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero.”
Image: The Grammy Awards opened with a tribute to Bryant
Other Bryant fans from the worlds of sport, entertainment, politics and beyond have paid tribute on social media.
Usain Bolt said he “still can’t believe” the news and shared a picture of himself with the LA Lakers superstar.
Comedian Kevin Hart wrote: “This honestly doesn’t make sense….I just saw you man. This hurts my heart.”
Actress Whoopi Goldberg said the star was a “hero to many including my grandson, extraordinary athlete and always kind to me & my family.”
In an Instagram post, Justin Bieber wrote: “You always encouraged me mamba. Gave me me some of the best quotes that we smile about to this day.”
Bryant’s nickname during and after his career was Black Mamba.
Bieber also shared an old photograph of the pair smiling together.
Former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry hailed Bryant as an “inspiration” and tweeted two photos of the pair meeting.
He said: “Literally devastated to hear the news about @kobebryant, his daughter Gianna and all those on board the helicopter crash. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and also of the other victims.”
US gymnast Simone Biles also posted a photo of herself with the NBA star and other members of the American gymnastics team.
And the children’s TV programme Sesame Street remembered its “friend” Bryant, who appeared on the show to explain the word “miniature” with the help of Abby Cadabby.
Singer Demi Lovato wrote on Instagram: “Kobe you were always so sweet to me. Known you over 10 years.. not super well but we always joked about you coming over and playing that game of horse!”
Bryant was an 18-time All Star and named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008.
When he announced his plans to retire in 2015, he was described by NBA commissioner Adam Silver as “one of the greatest players in the history of our game”.
Image: Bryant pictured with his daughter Gianna in Las Vegas in July last year
On his retirement, Bryant wrote a poem called “Dear Basketball” which was later turned into an animated film narrated by the player.
The short film won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2018.
Earlier on Sunday, the NBA Twitter account shared footage of Bryant and fellow NBA star LeBron James, who had surpassed Bryant to become the league’s third-highest scorer of all time.
Current and former NBA stars have also shared tributes to the legend.
NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird said: “Kobe was not only an icon in the sports arena, he was a man of the world and touched so many lives and communities in the most positive ways.
“His star was continuing to rise every day and he knew no limits because of his many intellectual and creative talents and desire to give back to others – his passion for the game, for his family and for others was apparent in everything he accomplished.”
Image: Fans have flocked to the Staples Center in Los Angeles to pay their respects
Image: A basketball lies amid flowers at a makeshift shrine at the Staples Center in LA/
Pau Gasol, who won two of his titles with Bryant, tweeted: “Beyond devastated… my big brother… I can’t, I just can’t believe it.”
Five-time NBA Most Valuable Player Bill Russell wrote: “I’m at a loss for words. @kobebryant was a long-time friend, an inspiration and we shared our first ever commercial @espn together as professionals. I love you forever. #RIPMAMBA”
The Orlando Magic is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Kobe Bryant. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Bryant family, the L.A. Lakers and the other victims of today’s tragedy and their families.We will observe a moment of silence before tonight’s game.#RIPMAMBA pic.twitter.com/VwMzx4AKy5
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) January 26, 2020
The Orlando Magic, who are facing the Los Angeles Clippers tonight, said they would hold a moment of silence before the game in honour of Bryant.
During the game between San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors, the players paid a fitting tribute to the star.
Meanwhile, New Orleans Pelicans star Lonzo Ball wrote “RIP Kobe” and “RIP Gianna” on his shoes ahead of a game.
Source : Sky News