"Brokenhearted", "It's unbelievable!" fans, sporting greats and world leaders said, choking back tears as news of basketball legend and 18-time NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant's death in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California Sunday sent shockwaves across the globe.
Bryant's daughter Gianna, 13, and seven others died in the crash on a steep, hilly area on Sunday morning in the US West Coast. All nine people on board were travelling for Gianna's basketball game which was to begin at noon, local time, in the Thousand Oaks area.
Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli wrote an emotional post on Bryant demise: "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."
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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 🙏
Los Angeles Lakers Star LeBron James broke down after learning of Kobe Bryant's passing. James passed Kobe Bryant on the all-time scoring list barely 24 hours ago.
"How a family is shattered, it's just incomprehensible", said Ernie Johnson, Host of 'Inside the NBA on TNT'. "I'm just at a loss".
FC Barcelona star player Lionel Messi also penned down an emotional post for Byrant: "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. We were a genius like few others."
Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo also gave his condolences to Bryant's family: "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"
Former US President Barack Obama tweeted Bryant's life after basketball was "just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act."
"To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day."
As the news exploded across geographies, talking heads on network television kept breaking down as they spoke about Bryant the legend.
Tennis legend Rafael Nadal also took to Twitter and reacted on the saddening news: "I woke up this morning with the horrible news of the tragic death of one of the greatest sportsman in the world. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and other passengers. My condolences to his wife and families. I am in shock."
I woke up this morning with the horrible news of the tragic death of one of the greatest sportsman in the world. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and other passengers. My condolences to his wife and families. I am in shock.— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) January 27, 2020
Maria Sharapova tweeted that she would never forget Bryant's "generosity" and the time he "set aside in some of my most difficult moments."
"I am forever grateful. My heart is with you and your beautiful family."
Kobe and Gigi💔 This is incredibly difficult to process. I will never forget your generosity, and the time you set aside in some of my most difficult moments. I am forever grateful. My heart is with you and your beautiful family. pic.twitter.com/rnGI8o1p5L— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) January 26, 2020
Words cannot describe the pain I'm feeling, a statement from Chicago Bulls' 15-time NBA star Michael Jordan said. "I loved Kobe. He was like a little brother to me", he said.
Indian opening batsman Rohit Sharma also shared an emotional post on Bryant and his daughter's demise. "Sad day in a sporting world today, one of the greats of the game gone to too soon. Rest in peace Kobe Bryant and his little daughter Gianna," wrote Rohit on his Instagram post.
Bryant's father too was an NBA player and trained Kobe in both the US and Italy. Bryant never wore any uniform other than the Lakers' which is increasingly rare in pro sports and certainly in pro basketball. Bryant wore two numbers though - 8 and 24.
At many games around the US on Sunday, players took a 24 -second shot-clock violation or 8-second backcourt violations to honour Bryant's memory and his legendary jersey numbers as applause for Bryant's achievements rang through the bleachers.
Fans dressed in Kobe Bryant gear thronged Staples Center in Los Angeles which put up a giant screen honouring the basketball legend.
Bryant was the winner of the NBAs Most Valuable Player Award for the 2007-08 season, and the Finals MVP in 2009 and 2010. Bryant's career highlights include a jaw-dropping 81-point game in 2006 that is the second-highest single-game total in NBA. history. He won gold for the US. Basketball in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Bryant also has an Academy Award to his name for his animated short film Dear Basketball in 2018.
(With IANS Inputs)