The untimely demise of retired Los Angeles Lakers and NBA star Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash on Sunday has left his fans and the game’s aficionados in tears. Bryant, 41, who was affectionately called Black Mamba, was among nine people killed when their chopper crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California. Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was also one among the victims.
Over the course of a 20-year career, Bryant won five National Basketball Association (NBA) championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. He spent his entire career playing for the Lakers.
“The NBA family is devastated,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
Remembering Bryant’s remarkable career, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as “one of our greatest heroes”.
A 6-foot-6 forward, Bryant was a gifted scorer whose intensity and work ethic inspired sportsmen throughout the world.
He entered the NBA in 1996, straight out of high school. The youngest player in the league, he was almost immediately shortlisted to be a part of the Lakers. He joined the team, whose past icons included Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, when the team was looking for its next star.
In addition to his NBA titles, he clinched two gold medals at the Olympics, two NBA Finals MVPs (most valuable player) and a regular-season MVP in 2008. He was the top scorer in the league twice and retired with 33,643 points — third on the all-time scoring list until he was passed this weekend by LeBron James. He wore two jerseys for the Lakers — No. 8 and No. 24 — and the team retired both.
Tributes pour in
Prominent media, entertainment, sports, and political personalities expressed their grief at his demise on various social media platforms. #RIPMamba has been trending on Twitter since the news of his death broke.
“I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing. Words can't describe the pain I'm feeling,” NBA legend Michael Jordan said in a statement. “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.”
Bryant's former LA Lakers teammate Shaquille O'Neal also tweeted his grief: “There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of losing my niece Gigi & my brother @kobebryant. I love u and u will be missed. My condolences go out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW.”
“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,” tweeted former US President Barack Obama.
Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo also took to Twitter to express his condolences. “So sad to hear the heartbreaking news of the deaths of Kobe and his daughter Gianna. Kobe was a true legend and inspiration to so many. Sending my condolences to his family and friends and the families of all who lost their lives in the crash. RIP Legend.”
The 62nd Grammy music awards ceremony began with a heartfelt tribute to Bryant. Host Alicia Keys dedicated the show to his memory, with an a-capella version of It's So Hard To Say Goodbye with the group Boyz II Men. Many performers also expressed their loss at his demise.
Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli has expressed his condolences saying: “Absolutely devastated to hear this news today. So many childhood memories of waking up early and watching this magician doing things on the court that I would be mesmerized by. Life is so unpredictable and fickle. His daughter Gianna passed away in the crash. I am absolutely Heartbroken. Rest in peace. Strength and condolences to the family.”