Tributes pour in for five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant

Tributes pour in for five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant

Tributes have poured in for Kobe Bryant after the former basketball star died in a helicopter crash at the age of 41.

Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna also died in the crash near Calabasas, California, along with seven other passengers.

US president Donald Trump, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Usain Bolt, Tom Brady, Whoopi Goldberg and Tiger Woods were among countless people to pay their respects to the five-time NBA champion.

Bryant, regarded as one of the best players of all time, represented the Los Angeles Lakers for all of his 20-year career and also won two Olympic gold medals before retiring in 2016.

President Trump wrote on Twitter: “Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news!”

Former president Barack Obama wrote: “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.”

Shaquille O’Neal, who won three NBA titles alongside Bryant with the Lakers, said: “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”

Lakers byword Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said: “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.”

Another former Lakers great, Magic Johnson, said he was praying for Bryant’s family and that the sport of basketball and the city of Los Angeles would never be the same.

The 60-year-old, who won five NBA titles during his career, added: “Kobe and I shared so many special conversations about life and basketball. We had so much in common off the court. I used to love talking to him about Lakers basketball, being fathers and husbands and how much we loved Italy. I will miss those conversations and him so much.”

Michael Jordan, arguably the most famous basketball player of all time, said Bryant was “like a little brother to him” in a statement.

Joel Embiid, a three-time NBA All-Star playing for Bryant’s hometown team the Philadelphia 76ers, said he took up basketball after watching “legend” Bryant in action and wanted to emulate him.

The Cameroon-born centre wrote: “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”

Golfer Tiger Woods said he only found out about his friend’s death after finishing his final round at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

The 15-time major winner, who is a life-long Lakers fan, told the PGA Tour: “It’s a shocker to everyone. Unbelievably sad and one of the more tragic days…for me the reality is just setting in.”

Asked what he remembers about Bryant, Woods added: “The fire. He burned so competitively hot and the desire to win. He brought it each and every night, on both ends of the floor. Not too many guys can say that throughout the NBA history.”

Brooks Koepka, golf’s world number one, also said Bryant was an idol of his in a social media post that included an inspirational quote from the former NBA star.

He wrote on Twitter: “Kobe Bryant was my HERO growing up. Even to this day he was an inspiration to the way I approached things. I woke up every day and saw this quote every time I opened my phone. His mentality motivated me not only in hard times but throughout my whole life. RIP, Kobe.”

Six-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was another sports star who said he had looked up to Bryant, saying he “was one of the greatest athletes and was such an inspiration to so many including myself.”

Former record-breaking Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt tweeted: “Still can’t believe” along with a photo of him with Bryant.

Tom Brady, the six-time Super Bowl winner, wrote: “We miss you already Kobe”

TV and film personality Whoopi Goldberg wrote: “RIP Kobe, hero to many including my grandson, extraordinary athlete and always kind to me & my family. My deepest condolences to his family.”

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis put a picture of Bryant on his Twitter account simply accompanied by the word “Heartbroken”.

Andy Murray pays tribute to Kobe Bryant (Andy Murray's Instagram account)
Andy Murray pays tribute to Kobe Bryant (Andy Murray’s Instagram account)

Three-time grand slam tennis champion Andy Murray also paid tribute to Bryant, saying on an Instagram story “This has hit me hard”, while adding “Thinking of all his family, friends and colleagues.”

Scores of footballers and clubs expressed their condolences, including the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Diego Maradona, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Paul Pogba, Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan.

Brazil superstar Neymar also paid tribute to Bryant by making the number 24 – one of Bryant’s shirt numbers – with his hands after scoring for Paris St Germain in their 2-0 win at Lille.

Neymar pays tribute to Bryant after scoring for PSG (Michel Spingler/AP)

Biles, winner of 23 Olympic and World Championship gold medals, wrote “rest in peace Kobe” alongside a picture of Bryant with the USA women’s gymnastics team.

Singer Justin Bieber also put an old picture of him alongside Bryant on Instagram, saying: “It can’t be. You always encouraged me mamba. Gave me me some of the best quotes that we smile about to this day.! Love you man!”

Actors Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’ and Idris Elba also tweeted messages of condolence.