Kobe Bryant

IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE: In this March 2, 2019 photo, Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna watch an NCAA college basketball game between Connecticut and Houston in Connecticut. The 41-year-old, 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships died in a helicopter crash yesterday. Gianna also died in the crash. —Photo: AP

NBA players, coaches, entertainers and politicians took to social media and other outlets yesterday to express their shock and sadness over the helicopter crash that took the life of former basketball great Kobe Bryant, an 18-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion.

NBA legend Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and three others were killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California yesterday.

The chopper went down in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 kilometres) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Authorities confirmed that five people died, with no survivors. Bryant, an all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, was among the victims.

Word of Bryant’s sudden death at age 41 rocketed around the sports and entertainment worlds, with many taking to Twitter to register their shock, disbelief and dismay.

“Man, I don’t even know where to start,” tweeted Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid. “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!!!!”

Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown.

Pau Gasol, a former teammate of Bryant’s with the Lakers, tweeted, “Beyond devastated... my big brother... I can’t, I just can’t believe it.”

Former Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tweeted that “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.”

And former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen added: “I’m stunned. Words can’t even come close to describing it. Just an incredibly sad and tragic day.”

The Spurs and the Raptors honoured Bryant at the start of their game yesterday.

They did not participate in the tip off to start the game. Instead, Fred VanVleet took the ball and held onto it for a 24-second shot clock violation, to honour Bryant’s former number he wore with the Lakers. Dejounte Murry then did the same thing for the Spurs. The crowd was chanting “Kobe! Kobe!” as this was going on. Lonnie Walker IV was visibly upset. He was crying and wiping away tears during pre-game as the Spurs honoured Kobe.

Syracuse University men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim previously worked with Bryant with Team USA. Bryant won two gold medals for the United States in 2008 and 2012.

“He was not only one of the greatest basketball players ever, he was also the hardest working player I’ve ever been around,” Boeheim tweeted. “I was so fortunate to have known him and coached him with Team USA. Our thoughts and our prayers are with his wife, Vanessa, and the Bryant family.”

Bryant’s death reverberated beyond sports. In 2018, he won an Academy Award in the animated short film category.

Actress Reese Witherspoon tweeted: “Just devastated to hear about #KobeBryant. An extraordinary athlete, and a genuinely kind, wonderful man. Sending love, prayers & compassion to his family. To his entire @NBA family as well.”

The Rev Jesse Jackson weighed in, too.

“As I tweet through my tears, I am so hurt,” Jackson tweeted. “I cannot stop crying. Kobe was instrumental to so many people. There is a hole in the basketball world and there will be for a long time. Rest in heavenly peace.”

—AP

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