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World sport stars, celebrities pay tribute to Kobe Bryant

Reuters
Filed on January 27, 2020
Former NBA, Kobe Bryant, helicopter crash, basketball

Kobe Bryant and daughter among nine killed in helicopter crash crash near Los Angeles.

 Kobe Bryant, one of the NBA's all-time greatest players whose international stardom transcended basketball, was killed at age 41 on Sunday in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others on board, officials said.

Bryant rocketed to fame as an 18-year-old rookie and played 20 years for the Los Angeles Lakers - 18 of them as an all-star - winning five NBA championships. His death sent shockwaves through the National Basketball Association, which he helped propel to international prominence, and around the world.

The cause of the crash was unknown, and an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board could take months.

Bryant was known to travel frequently by helicopter to avoid Los Angeles' infamous traffic, dating to his playing days.

His Sikorsky S-76 chopper went down in foggy weather around 10am (1800 GMT) in hilly terrain in Calabasas, California, about 40 miles (65 km) northwest of central Los Angeles, sparking a brush fire, officials said.

"There were no survivors," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told a news conference, saying the manifest showed nine people on board. He declined to identify them.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among those killed, and sent condolences to Bryant's wife, Vanessa.

"He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary," Silver said, as tributes poured in from players, politicians and entertainers.

Among the others on board, in addition to the pilot, were a teammate from Bryant's daughter's basketball team and a parent of the teammate, NBC News reported.

Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was also one of the victims, the Orange County Register reported, citing assistant coach Ron La Ruffa.

'Kobe we love you'

Reaction to Bryant's death was swift, and moments of silence were observed before some of Sunday's NBA games.

In San Antonio, the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs allowed the 24-second shot clock to expire on each of their first possessions, in tribute to Bryant's jersey number 24.

"I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing. Words can't describe the pain I'm feeling," said Michael Jordan, who won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls.

"Kobe was an amazing dad who loved his family deeply - and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball," Jordan said.

Stunned fans gathered near the Lakers' home arena - the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles - surrounding a wreath with a message: "Kobe we love you RIP."

Some in the crowd dabbed tears as others laid flowers and basketball sneakers at the wreath. Fans wore both his No. 24 and No. 8 jerseys, breaking the somber mood with occasional chants of "Kobe, Kobe."

Among those internationally recognized athletes known simply by their first names, Bryant was an avid supporter of soccer and women's basketball and spoke Italian, having spent part of his youth in Italy, where his father, former NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, played several seasons professionally.

He also won an Oscar, along with Glen Keane, for the 2017 animated short film "Dear Basketball," and sometimes mingled with show-business stars in Los Angeles.

'Much more than an athlete'

"Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players. But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete," Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the all-time NBA scoring leader and former Laker, said on Twitter.

Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003 by an employee at a Colorado hotel, tarnishing his reputation and leading to a media storm to cover his trial.

Bryant denied the allegations and charges eventually were dropped after the woman refused to testify.

Bryant and his wife filed for divorce in 2011 after 10 years of marriage, but the couple said in 2013 they had reconciled.

Besides Gianna, they had three other daughters: Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born in June 2019.

Bryant played all 20 of his NBA seasons with the Lakers, winning five championships and being named an all-star 18 times. He also won two Olympic gold medals as a member of the US men's basketball team in 2008 and 2012.

Nicknamed "The Black Mamba," he became eligible to enter the Hall of Fame this year and is certain to be selected when the 2020 class is enshrined.

Bryant demonstrated from an early age he would surpass the accomplishments of his father, who played eight seasons in the NBA.

The Philadelphia native went straight from high school to the NBA, skipping the college ranks. Since he was still only 17 years old, his parents needed to co-sign his first contract with the Lakers and he played his first game with the team shortly after turning 18 in 1996.

He was the third-leading scorer in league history with 33,643 points, until LeBron James passed him on Saturday. In his final tweet, Bryant saluted James' achievement, writing: "Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother."

Reaction to the death of Kobe Bryant

Reaction from the basketball world and beyond on the death of retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash on Sunday:

"Words can't describe the pain I am feeling. I loved Kobe - he was like a little 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." - Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan in a statement

"It's an unbelievable reality that he's no longer here." - golfer Tiger Woods

"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." - Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird in a statement

It's just a huge loss to the game. He was a great example on a lot of different stages." - rapper Rick Ross at the Grammy Awards

"Jeannine & I are absolutely shocked to hear of the loss of one of my favorite people & one of the best basketball minds in the history of the game! Our hearts and prayers to Vanessa & his girls. (at)kobebryant you were my biggest fan, but I was yours. (hash)RIPMAMBA" - Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell via Twitter

"That is terrible news!" - President Donald Trump via Twitter

"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." - Former President Barack Obama via Twitter

"For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals. But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna." - NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a statement

"Just devastated to hear about (hash)KobeBryant. An extraordinary athlete, and a genuinely kind, wonderful man. Sending love, prayers & compassion to his family. To his entire (at)NBA family as well." - actress Reese Witherspoon via Twitter

"As I tweet through my tears, I am so hurt. I cannot stop crying. Kobe was instrumental to so many people. There is a hole in the basketball world and there will be for a long time. Rest in heavenly peace." - the Rev. Jesse Jackson via Twitter

"Today we at (at)WaltDisneyCo mourn the tragic loss of (at)kobebryant...a giant in sports and a person so full of life. Terrible news and so hard to process...." - Robert Iger, chairman and CEO of Disney, via Twitter

"A true gladiator in our life time. You will be forever in our memories, our childrens memories, and generations to come." - rapper Wyclef Jean via Twitter

 "I'm at a loss for words. (at)kobebryant was a long-time friend, an inspiration and we shared our first ever commercial (at)espn together as professionals. I love you forever. (hash)RIPMAMBA" - retired NFL player Keyshawn Johnson

"Shocked by the death of (at)kobebryant, an exemplary athlete both on and off the basketball court. Our most heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones. Rest in peace." - FC Barcelona football club via Twitter

"Kobe Bryant Rest in Peace. Unbelievable, unbelievably sad..." - Basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas via Twitter

"Kobe's support for the WNBA and women's basketball along with his passion for helping young girls and boys follow their dreams made him a true legend for our sport. We admired him not just as a legendary basketball player, but as a father, a youth coach, and a role model for future generations of athletes." - WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert in a statement

"Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court - and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved." - Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles mayor, via Twitter


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