Michael Jordan has led the tributes to fellow NBA legend Kobe Bryant after his death in a helicopter crash at the age of 41.
Fans of the LA Lakers hero from across the worlds of sport, entertainment, politics and beyond have expressed their shock at his sudden passing, as well as current and former basketball greats.
Bryant was one of nine people killed when the private helicopter came down in Calabasas, California, on Sunday, with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna among the victims.
Image: Bryant and Jordan facing off in 1997
Jordan, widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all-time, has described Bryant as “one of the greats of the game and a creative force”.
He said in a statement: “I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling.”
Jordan added: “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.”
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Another legend quick to pay tribute was Bryant’s former Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal, who tweeted: “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.”
Image: Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash
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 soars for a dunk
Golfer 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 Center, 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.”
‘Tonight is for Kobe’: Grammy stars’ tributes
Image: The Grammy Awards opened with a tribute to Bryant
Other Bryant fans from around the world have paid tribute on social media.
Sprinter Usain Bolt said he “still can’t believe” the news and shared a picture of himself with the LA Lakers superstar.
Rapper Kanye West tweeted a picture of himself with the basketball star and posted: “Kobe, We love you brother We’re praying for your family and appreciate the life you’ve lived and all the inspiration you gave.”
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”.
Gianni Bryant shared dad’s love for game
Image: Kobe Bryant pictured with his five NBA titles
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.
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!”
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.”
Cristiano Ronaldo called Bryant a “true legend and inspiration”, and Lionel Messi posted on Instagram: “I have no words … All my love for Kobe’s family and friends.
“It was a pleasure to meet you and share good times together. You were a genius like few others.”
Stars of tennis have also expressed their disbelief at Bryant’s sudden death, as many of the sport’s top pros continue to compete at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic, who will play his quarter-final in Melbourne on Tuesday, was among those who knew Bryant and had spoken of their friendship in a TV interview just a few days ago.
He wrote on Instagram: “My heart truly mourns over the news today. Kobe was a great mentor and friend. There are not enough words to express my deepest sympathies to the Bryants and every family suffering from this tragedy.”
Rafael Nadal added his condolences on Twitter, saying: “I woke up this morning with the horrible news of the tragic death of one of the greatest sportsman in the world. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and other passengers. My condolences to his wife and families. I am in shock.”
In a post on Instagram stories, Andy Murray wrote: “This has hit me hard. Thinking of all his family, friends and colleagues.”
I woke up this morning with the horrible news of the tragic death of one of the greatest sportsman in the world. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and other passengers. My condolences to his wife and families. I am in shock.
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) January 27, 2020
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.
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 acclaimed animated film narrated by the player.
The short film won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2018.
British actor Idris Elba said Bryant “would always be remembered” for his life on and off the court – and US presidents past and present have also paid tribute.
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/
Donald Trump tweeted: “Kobe Bryant, despite being one of the truly great basketball players of all time, was just getting started in life. He loved his family so much, and had such strong passion for the future.
“The loss of his beautiful daughter, Gianna, makes this moment even more devastating. Melania and I send our warmest condolences to Vanessa and the wonderful Bryant family. May God be with you all!”
His predecessor Barack Obama said: “Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents.
“Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020
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.
Other 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: Kobe Bryant in action for the Los Angeles Lakers
And Pau Gasol, who won two of his championship 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”
Image: David Beckham and Gordon Ramsay meet Bryant at a Lakers game in 2010
Image: Bryant exchanges jerseys with former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry in 2016
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 by letting the 24-second shot clock run out to start the game in honour of Kobe, who wore number 24 throughout the latter half of his career with the Lakers.
As the clock ran down, fans of both sides chanted Kobe’s name.
Source : Sky News