Bryant the most 'inspirational athlete of our time' – Lakers GM Pelinka

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka called the late Kobe Bryant a "visionary beyond measure" and described the NBA great's daughter Gianna as "pure joy."

Rob Pelinka and Kobe Bryant in 2016   -  Getty Images

Kobe Bryant was the "most inspirational athlete of our time" and "the best friend anyone could ever imagine," his former agent and Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said.

Pelinka issued a heartfelt statement on Thursday remembering Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

Pelinka, 50, developed a close relationship with five-time NBA champion Bryant throughout their long association and was Gianna's godfather.

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He described their deaths as being "an amputation of part of my soul."

"Kobe was a force of nature, deep and obsessed with excellence," the Lakers GM said in the statement.

"He was wise, determined, passionate. A visionary beyond measure. A dedicated and loving husband, and a 'girl-dad' like no other.

"When he walked into a room, the energy ignited. He was high voltage, with a motor that had no limits. His mind had an infinite capacity to learn. He was, simply put, the most inspirational athlete of our time.

"What the world may not know is that he was also the best friend anyone could ever imagine.

"Gigi was pure joy. Her smile brought comfort to any and every occasion. She was brilliant, kind and warm.

"And, like her dad, when she stepped onto the basketball court, she took on an entirely different nature, and boy could she play. Her basketball destiny was apparent, and the world knew it.

"She was also an extraordinary, loyal and supportive sister, and a wonderful friend to my children. My son and daughter always left time with Gigi feeling better about life itself. Everything Gigi stood for, I am so proud of."

Pelinka described the nine deaths as leaving "an irreplaceable void" for those who knew them and vowed to carry on Bryant and Gianna's legacies.

The Lakers, who will return to the floor against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, have used their website to promote the Mamba Sports Foundation's MambaOnThree Fund, set up to financially support the families affected by the tragedy.