Kobe Bryant’s laserlike focus and sublime skills were remembered on Sunday by NBA colleagues, fans and athletes he inspired as they absorbed the shock of his death at the age of 41.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and two-time Olympic gold medallist, died in a fiery helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
“We laughed and joked about the Mamba mentality. We’re all going to need it right now,” an emotional Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before his team played the Magic in Orlando in one of eight NBA games on the night.
Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, was washed in the Lakers colors of purple and gold, and so were the pylons that mark the entrance to Los Angeles International Airport.
In San Antonio, the Spurs and Toronto Raptors both committed 24-second shot-clock violations on their opening possessions in honor of Bryant -- who wore No. 24 in the later stages of his career.
Kobe death sends shockwaves through NBA and beyond
The grief was felt beyond the basketball court.
“The world lost a legend today, but the impact and legacy he leaves behind will last forever,” Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao -- an avid basketball fan -- tweeted.
Golf superstar Tiger Woods, whose professional career started the same year as Bryant’s, recalled competitive qualities that echo those of Woods himself.
“The fire,” Woods said of what he most remembered of Bryant. “He burned so competitively hot. He had such a desire to win. He brought it every night.”
“Any time he was in the game he would take on their best player and shut him down for 40 minutes. I think that’s one of the best things about him his whole career.” Woods, no stranger to injury, recalled the time Bryant ruptured an achilles tendon -- then stayed in the game to make his free throws.
Football superstar and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi joined the list of mourners, using Instagram to write: "I have no words… all my love for Kobe's family and friends. It was a pleasure to meet you and share good times together. You were a genius like few others."
Messi's arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo labelled Kobe a "true legend" as he tweeted: "So sad to hear the heartbreaking news of the deaths of Kobe and his daughter Gianna. Kobe was a true legend and inspiration to so many. Sending my condolences to his family and friends and the families of all who lost their lives in the crash. RIP Legend."
New England Patriots great Brady wrote on his Twitter page: "We miss you already, Kobe."
World number one golfer Brooks Koepka posted a lengthy message in memory of his "hero".
"Kobe Bryant was my HERO growing up. Even to this day he was an inspiration to the way I approached things," he wrote, adding: "His mentality motivated me not only in hard times but throughout my whole life. RIP, Kobe."
The cricket community also joined the rest of the world in mourning. Indian skipper Virat Kohli said in an Instagram post: “Absolutely devastated to hear this news today. So many childhood memories of waking up early and watching this magician doing things on the court that I would be mesmerized by. Life is so unpredictable and fickle. His daughter Gianna passed away too in the crash. Iam absolutely Heartbroken. Rest in peace. Strength and condolences to the family.
Australian spin great Shane Warne was “stunned” by the tragedy. “Like everyone, I’m stunned, shocked and saddened to hear the horrific news about Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter who died in a helicopter crash. Thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this extremely sad time!”
Kobe remembered at the Grammys
In Los Angeles, fans gathered to leave tributes near the sight of the crash and outside the Lakers’ practice facility miles south in El Segundo.
And they gathered outside the Lakers’ Staples Center arena, where Bryant’s death cast a shadow over the glitzy Grammy Awards.
“Here we are,” Grammys host Alicia Keys said.
“Together. On music’s biggest night celebrating the artists that do it best. But to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now. Because earlier today Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero.
“And we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
(With inputs from Omnisport)
Latest on Sportstar
- Three times the cheer: How Gokulam Kerala made Indian Women’s League its own
- WTC Final LIVE Score, IND vs AUS Day 1: Australia 8/1 (5 overs); Warner, Labuschagne rebuild after Siraj gets Khawaja
- Di Maria quits Juventus after one season
- WTC Final 2023: Why is India wearing black armbands?
- Long live the Kings: The story of CSK’s love affair with IPL