In Depth

Kobe Bryant tributes: world of sport mourns death of an NBA icon

Former LA Lakers star and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash

Inspiration. Legend. Icon. Just three of the words being used to describe former NBA star Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash in California. 

First reported by media outlet TMZ, the 41-year-old and his daughter Gianna Maria Onore, 13, were among those who died in the crash near Calabasas. The Los Angeles Times later reported that nine people were onboard.   

Regarded as one of the best basketball players ever, Bryant played in the NBA for 20 years and spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers. 

After winning five NBA championships and being named an All-Star 18 times, the “Black Mamba” retired in April 2016

He is the Lakers’s all-time leading scorer, with 33,643 points, and fourth on the all-time NBA scoring list. Only on Saturday current Lakers star LeBron James moved ahead of Bryant as the NBA’s third-highest points scorer. 

In 2017 the Lakers retired the two shirt numbers worn by Bryant during his NBA career with the team, the No.8 and No.24.

Away from the court, he later launched Kobe Inc. and a venture capital firm, Bryant Stibel.

Shock and sorrow 

Basketball fans left flowers at a memorial outside the Staples Center, the home arena of the Lakers, and US President Donald Trump and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti led the tributes to Bryant. 

President Trump tweeted it was “terrible news” while Garcetti said: “This is a moment that leaves us struggling to find words that express the magnitude of shock and sorrow we are all feeling right now, and I am keeping Kobe’s entire family in my prayers at this time of unimaginable grief.

“Kobe will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes.”

Former US President 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.”

On the Hollywood Walk of Fame in LA, fans created an “RIP Kobe Bryant” star in his memory.

Olympic golds and an Oscar 

As well as five NBA championships with the Lakers, Bryant won gold medals with Team USA at the Olympic Games in Beijing and London. He was named the NBA’s most valuable player (MVP) in 2008 and was a two-time NBA finals MVP.

Bryant also won an Oscar in 2018. He claimed the Best Animated Short Film gong for Dear Basketball at the Academy Awards. 

Written and narrated by Bryant, and directed by Glen Keane, the five-minute film is based on the poem of the same name written by the former NBA star and published in The Players’ Tribune when he retired.

#RIPKobe: reactions to Bryant’s death

Bryant’s legendary status in the NBA made him one of the world’s biggest sports icons. Athletes and teams from across the globe joined NBA stars in paying tribute on social media. 

Shaquille O’Neal, a former Lakers team-mate of Bryant, tweeted: “There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of losing my niece 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. I’m sick right now.”

Current Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid revealed how he was inspired by Bryant. Embiid said: “Man I don’t even know where to start. I started playing ball because of KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched ball before that and that finals was the turning point of my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I’m so FREAKING SAD right now!!!! RIP LEGEND.”

Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi wrote: “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.”

Here we look at the other tributes posted on Twitter:


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