America and the rest of the world are grieving as, as basketball star, Kobe Bryant and his 13 year-old daughter, Gianna, died with three others in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning.
Bryant, 41 and the others perished when his private crashed and burst into flames in the hills above Calabasas in California. He was on his way to basketball practice.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, and former NBA MVP, as well as an 18-time All-Star, was one of basketball’s most gifted and innovative player. A prolific scorer who played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers until his retirement in 2016, Bryant chalked up an impressive 33,643 career regular season points, which put on him in the third place on the all-time scoring list for a long time before he was edged to fourth place by former teammate, Lebron James just 24 hours before his death.
Ever the gentleman and amiable sportsman, Bryant in a tweet, congratulated James:
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother”, he said to the LA Lakers star who went into the epoc making game wearing sneakers honouring Bryant. After the game, which was played in Philadelphia, Bryant’s home state, James himself said:
“Now I’m here in a Lakers uniform in Philadelphia, where he’s from...I’m happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant.”
That conversation sadly, will not continue with the passing of the former Lakers Guard, the only guard in history to play in 20 straight seasons.
As news of his death spread basketball fans and other admirers massed at the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, venue of the Grammy Awards.
President Donald Trump leading his nation in mourning the departed basketball legend tweeted:
“Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news!”
The Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, eulogised the late basketball player 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. He will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes. 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.”
For Kareem Abdul Jabber, another Lakers and NBA legend, Bryant was more than just a basketball player. Reacting to the player’s death, Abdul Jabber, who was a six-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), two-time Finals MVP, a record 19-time NBA All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member, 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”.
Scottie Pippen, another retired NBA legend who played for both the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets (alongside Nigerian, Hakeem Olajuwon), tweeted concerning Bryant’s death:
“I’m stunned. Words can’t even come close to describing it. Just an incredibly sad and tragic day”.
Away from basketball, tributes came from other celebrities. Paul Abdul, the music superstar expressed sadness at the basketball star’s demise;
“I am completely speechless and devastated at the unexpected passing of my dear friend, @kobebryant. Kobe had a big heart and an even bigger love for the community of Los Angeles. Through his foundation, he changed the lives of so many people and families with his wife, Vanessa,” she said.
Actors, Idris Elba and Reese Witherspoon, joined talk show hosts Ellen DeGeneres and Kelly Clarkson in expressing sadness at Bryant’s passing.
Across the Atlantic in Europe, top football clubs, Manchester United, Barcelona, AC Milan, PSG, AS Roma, Olympique Marseilles and AS Monaco, joined in mourning the basketball legend who was avid football fan.
Nigerian celebrities, Davido, Toke Makinwa, Kemi Adetiba and Beverly Naya also joined in mourning the late basketball legend. A grief stricken Makinwa tweeted:
“Lord noooo, hearing his daughter was on board too. This is so sad, like why???? Gosh I’m sick to my stomach
“This is heart wrenching, not Kobe, whaaaaat!!!! Just like that? God pls console his family, such a legend, too sad. #BlackMamba #RipKobe.
Life is indeed but a dream, Lord teach us to number our days, so that we can apply wisdom. Rest In Peace to the black mamba, so sad, #RipKobe”.
South African comedian, Trevor Noah also expressed sadness at Bryant’s passing.
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