It’s not just the basketball world that is mourning the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday in California – literally billions of people with a smattering of sporting knowledge knew who he was too.
The 41-year-old superstar died in Calabasas, north of Los Angeles on Sunday morning. Bryant was travelling with four other people when his private helicopter went down. One of them was his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
The tributes immediately started pouring in. Usain Bolt was one of the first to respond to the news. He tweeted a picture of himself with Kobe saying: “I just can’t believe it.” Megan Rapinoe, the American soccer star, said: “My heart is going out to the Bryant family right now. Rest in peace Kobe.”
Justin Bieber, David Beckham, Jack Nicholson, Drake, the Kardashians, Dennis Rodman, Raheem Sterling, Andy Murray, Barack Obama, Jay-Z, Floyd Mayweather Jr and many others immediately gave heartfelt tributes.
LeBron James said that Kobe had helped him in his youth before he had even joined the NBA and was a great source of inspiration, particularly for his unstinting work ethic. Bryant used to turn up for training two hours before it even started when he was still in high school and despite earning millions as soon as he joined the NBA, he still trained like a rookie trying to establish himself right up until he retired four years ago.
Just Saturday night Bryant congratulated current Lakers star LeBron James for becoming the NBA’s third-highest scorer of all-time. He tweeted: "Continuing to move the game forward. Much respect my brother."
And LeBron responded by saying "I'm happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant. One of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers. The man's got two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It's just crazy."
Dwyane Wade, who played alongside Bryant on Team USA’s gold medal winning squad at the 2008 Olympics, was one of the first basketball stars to react to the news. “Nooooooooooo God please No!” he wrote on Twitter.
Tributes are pouring in from millions of other people, not just because of his basketball prowess but because he touched people’s lives hugely with his philanthropic work.
He may have been worth over $550 million but he worked tirelessly to help underprivileged kids to succeed in life through various projects, particularly from the tough Philadelphia neighbourhood he came from. Anyone who met him said that he was completely devoid of ego and was a genuine man of the people who willingly gave autographs, selfies and fist bumps. Bryant is solely credited with growing basketball in Asia where it was virtually ignored 20 years ago to becoming one of the most popular sports today.
Emergency personnel responded but were unable to save anyone that was on board with five people confirmed dead. The cause of the helicopter crash is under investigation. Bryant famously used a private helicopter for years, going back to when he was playing at the LA Lakers.
The NBA legend is survived by his wife Vanessa, and their three other daughters - Natalia and Bianca and new-born Capri.
Bryant was one of basketball’s greatest players, having spent his entire career with the Lakers. He was an 18-time All-Star and was named in the All-NBA Team on 15 occasions.
Bryant was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2005 and racked up 1,346 regular season career appearances between 1996 and 2016.
The Lakers legend helped his side to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000 to 2002 and continued to rank among the top players across the league until knee and shoulder injuries forced his retirement at the end of the 2015/16 season.
He was the youngest player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points, hitting the milestone aged 34 years and 104 days. Bryant also won Olympic gold medals as a member of the US National team at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
He also achieved success off the court with his film ‘Dear Basketball’ winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
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