Friends, former rivals share emotions on Twitter over Kobe Bryant’s death

Stephen Wagner

Legendary Laker and future NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant was one of nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday morning, TMZ reported. 

His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, was also killed in the crash. In a news conference Sunday afternoon, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said there were nine people on board and no survivors. Kobe and Gianna were reportedly en route to her travel team basketball game. Kobe was 41. 

Tearful, voice-cracking announcers, mournful coaches and heartbroken former teammates and competitors from across the NBA and beyond expressed their condolences through different media outlets.

“Hard to put what you meant to so many people into words. I will miss a great person on and off the court,” Texas Ex LaMarcus Aldridge said in a Twitter post. “You always took the time to show my kids and family love and I will never forget that! RIP Kobe.”

Bryant spent all of his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, which retired both his 8 and 24 jersey numbers after his illustrious career came to an end in 2016. 

“NOOOO MAN!!!! Not his daughter  i’m sick to my stomach,” former Longhorn Tristan Thompson said in a series of tweets. “ALL NBA teams should retire the numbers 8 AND 24.”

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban announced in a statement Sunday night that “the number 24 will never again be worn by a Dallas Maverick.”

His death comes less than 24 hours after current Laker LeBron James passed Bryant for the third spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant’s final Tweet congratulated James for his historical accomplishment. “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant tweeted. “Much respect my brother  #33644.” 

Bryant served as a larger-than-life figure to a generation of basketball fans, rising to superstardom in the early 2000s. He won five championships, two NBA Finals MVPs and one regular season MVP.

“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.”