Tributes pour in from around the world after former Los Angeles Lakers player was killed in a helicopter crash
A five-time NBA champion, a double Olympic gold medallist, a speaker of multiple languages, an Oscar winner – and one of a handful of athletes known internationally simply by their first names.
Kobe Bryant, one of basketball’s all-time greats whose sporting appeal transcended the United States, was among nine people killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles, home to the only team he ever played for: The Los Angeles Lakers.
The news of the 41-year-old’s death sent shockwaves through the sports world and beyond, with tributes pouring in from sports figures, politicians and fans around the world.
“He is a giant in the sports world,” Robert Littal, editor of Black Sports Online, told Al Jazeera. “It goes far beyond the NBA, far beyond basketball,” he said.
“It is hard to find anyone that doesn’t know Kobe. He was bigger than life.”
The cause of the crash – which also killed Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna – was not immediately clear.
The former NBA star was born in Philadelphia, in the US state of Pennsylvania, but spent much of his childhood in Italy, where his father Joe Bryant – also a professional basketball player – played for eight years.
“Forever one of us,” Pallacanestro Reggiana – the basketball team from the Italian city of Reggio Emilia – wrote on Twitter with images of a young Bryant in uniform.