News of Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash in California, which also claimed the NBA legend’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others on Sunday, sent shock waves throughout the sports world and beyond.
Condolences began pouring in as authorities descended on Bryant’s downed Sikorsky S-76, which crashed in Calabasas about 10am. The helicopter struck a hillside amid heavy fog and immediately caught fire.
Investigators say they still don’t know what caused the crash, which left many of Bryant’s closest friends and admirers stunned. Earvin Magic Johnson tweeted a moving statement on his and his wife Cookie’s behalf, but admitted his mind was ‘racing’ as he wrote his grief-stricken words.
‘I’m in disbelief and have been crying all morning over this devastating news that Kobe and his young daughter, Gigi have passed away in a helicopter crash,’ the retired NBA legend wrote, referring to Gianna as ‘Gigi’.
‘Cookie and I are heartbroken,’ Johnson said about Bryant’s loss. ‘I love him, his family and what he stood for on the court and off the court’.
US President Donald Trump tweeted his and first Lady Melania Trump’s condolences, saying that ‘despite being one of the truly great basketball players of all time,’ Bryant ‘was just getting started in life’.
‘He loved his family so much, and had such strong passion for the future. The loss of his beautiful daughter, Gianna, makes this moment even more devastating….’ Trump wrote.
Former president Barack Obama also tweeted on his and his wife Michelle’s behalf.
‘Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,’ the former president wrote.
He added that the loss of Gianna for him and his wife was, ‘even more heartbreaking to us as parents’, and personally mentioned Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, in the post.
‘Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day’.
Officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene near Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street in Calabasas after a group of mountain bikers spotted smoke from the helicopter’s wreckage.
A flight plan indicated the helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9.06am PST and the last signal was received from the aircraft at 9.45am. It was expected to land at San Gabriel Valley Airport in El Monte.
TMZ reported that one of the passengers killed was John Altobelli – a baseball coach at Orange County College.
Among the first sports professionals to react on social media was Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who was quick to tweet that ‘I hope this isn’t true man!!’
Tiger Woods literally learned the news coming off the 18th hole at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, and and was interviewed by CBS.
‘It’s a shocker to everyone. I’m unbelievably sad … one of the more tragic days. For me, reality is just setting in,’ a visibly shaken Woods says in the footage, which was also tweeted by the PGA Tour.
Shaquille O’Neal, who also had played for the Lakers, tweeted, ‘There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed’.
‘My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW.’
Michael Jordan released a statement saying he would miss speaking with Bryant.
‘I will miss those conversations very much,’ the NBA legend said about Bryant. ‘He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force’.
Former New York Yankees short stop Derek Jeter penned a tribute in The Players’ Tribune, which he founded, saying he too would miss conversing with Bryant.
‘All I ever needed to know about Kobe Bryant was this: that throughout our friendship, the most meaningful conversations we had — they were always about family,’ the 45-year-old retired Yankees captain writes.
‘Put aside one of the all-time great basketball careers for a second. Put aside his famous work ethic, the Mamba mentality, that incredible will to win. I’ll let everyone else tackle that,’ Jeter says, including a reference to Bryant’s ‘Mamba’ nickname.
‘But when I think of Kobe, I really just end up thinking about those special few personal conversations that we were lucky enough to share together, each time one of us had a new baby daughter’.
In addition to Gianna, Bryant also had three other daughters: Capri, 7 months, Bianka, 3, and Natalia, 17. Jeter has two daughters, Story, 1, and Bella, 2.
Celebrities shared memories of moments they had with Bryant.
Jennifer Lopez tweeted that she and husband, former baseball pro Alex Rodriguez, were sharing memories of Bryant, and said they couldn’t fathom what his widow Vanessa and family are enduring.
‘I am sending all of my love and praying for you, your children and the other families involved in today’s tragic turn of events,’ J.Lo wrote.
Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted Bryant was ‘larger than life’, while Hugh Jackman credited him for being one of the players who got him interested in basketball when the Australian actor first came to the US.
‘Kobe’s amazing talent, professionalism and love of the game was palpable,’ the X-Men star wrote.
Witnesses reported hearing the engine sputtering before it went down near the home of Kourtney Kardashian.
Kim Kardashian posted a pictureof Bryant and his daughter on Instagram with the caption: ‘My heart is so heavy. No one should ever experience what Vanessa is going through. This has affected us all so much but I cannot begin to imagine what Vanessa is feeling losing her husband and baby girl.
‘I cry just thinking’s about it. I am praying for their family and everyone’s families who perished in this unthinkable tragedy. Rest In Peace Legend’
She wasn’t the only member of the Kardashians to express pain over Bryant’s passing. Her younger sister Khloe Kardashian tweeted: ‘This can’t be real, there’s no way!!! My heart hurts.’ In another tweet, she shared: ‘Please don’t let this be True. I’m shaking.’
And brother Rob Kardashian wrote: ‘All I’m thinking about is his wife and daughters … they need their Dad … Rest in Peace Mamba.’
Similar comments continued coming from celebrities through out the day, with many of them sharing pictures they took with Bryant.
Demi Lovato posted a shot a shot of herself posing with the Lakers legend at the Staples Center.
‘This makes me so sad. Kobe you were always so sweet to me. Known you over 10 years.. not super well but we always joked about you coming over and playing that game of horse! You will he so missed by so many. You’re a legend with wings now. RIP Kobe.’
Some mourners posted cherished images of Bryant. Model Bella Hadid tweeted a photo of Bryant reading the Los Angeles Times sports section while traveling with the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy, likely from the back-to-back titles in 2010.
‘I can’t believe this…Rest in Peace King…. thinking about Vanessa and their beautiful children during this time….,’ she wrote.
Travis Barker of Blink-182, who lives nearby in the upscale Southern California neighborhood, simply tweeted: ‘RIP KOBE.’
Singer Khalid similarly tweeted, ‘RIP Kobe,’ adding ‘This is heartbreaking unbelievable.’
Rap artist A$AP Rocky also shared on social media: ‘RIP KOBE, SO SAD, SUCH A SAD DAY N SAD NEWS, WE LOVE U.’
Model Chrissy Teigen expressed shock, saying in a social media post she could not believe ‘this is real’, upon hearing the news that Bryant died.
Singer John Legend said he was ‘so sad and stunned,’ over Bryant’s death and also recalled rap artist Nipsey Hussle, who was gunned down in the parking lot of his clothing store in Los Angeles last March.
‘Life can be so brutal and senseless sometimes. Hold on to your loved ones. We miss you, Kobe’, tweeted Legend.
Lance Bass of NSYNC fame tweeted a photo of the notable guard wearing his iconic purple and gold uniform with the caption: ‘No words.’
On Wednesday, Bryant celebrated the 13-year anniversary of a remarkable game where he earned 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second best single game point total in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain still holds the title of most points scored in a single game with 100 points.
Late night funny man Jimmy Kimmel tweeted Bryant was ‘one of the hardest-working athletes ever’.
‘We will never forget you Kobe.’