The news started to trickle down early Sunday after, former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant – one of the greatest to ever play in the NBA – had died in a tragic helicopter crash in the Los Angeles area.
Initially, it seemed like a bad rumor, but it was indeed true. Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant were among nine who were killed in the helicopter crash that left no survivors. Bryant and his daughter, who was a budding basketball star, were headed to Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, a travel basketball game.
“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a released statement. “For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning.”
Lakers nation also responded to Bryant’s tragic death.
“Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players,” Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete.”
“It’s hard to accept,” Magic Johnson said via Twitter. “Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players.”
Ironically, current Laker LeBron James passed Bryant for No. 3 on the NBA all-time scoring list on Saturday night in Bryant’s hometown Philadelphia.
Bryant, who spent all 20 years of his playing career with the Lakers, retired in 2016 after scoring 33,643 points. The 6-foot-6 swingman, known for his intensity and boldness on the basketball court, was an 18-time NBA All-Start and a five-time NBA champion.
Additionally, Bryant was a two-time NBA Finals MVP, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and in 2008 took home the regular-season NBA MVP. He is eligible to go into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020 and certainly will be a first-ballot selection.
Bryant was the youngest player to ever play in the NBA when he debuted during the 1996-97 season. He skipped college and was selected 13th overall in the NBA Draft by Charlotte but was quickly dealt to the Lakers. Bryant was just 17 at the time.
Bryant is known for the big shots and taking over games offensively in key moments, but he was also a 12-time All-Defensive team member and he made 15 All-NBA teams.
“He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals,” Silver said.
“But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.
“He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.”
Bryant and his wife, Vanessa Bryant, had four daughters together.
“We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization and the entire sports world,” Silver concluded.
Follow Terrance Harris on Twitter @terranceharris