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Tributes pour in for NBA great Kobe Bryant

NBA legend Kobe Bryant's sudden death has triggered an outpouring from around the sports world and beyond, remembering his skill and will and the indelible imprint he left on millions of admirers.

The five-time NBA winner and 18-time All-Star was killed along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others when his private helicopter crashed into a hillside and burst into flame in the Los Angeles County suburb of Calabasas on Sunday.

Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Usain Bolt, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Whoopi Goldberg, Lennox Lewis, Andy Murray, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Reese Witherspoon and Justin Bieber are among those who have paid respects on social media.

Bryant, widely regarded one of the best players of all time, represented the Los Angeles Lakers for all of his 20-year career and also won two Olympic gold medals before retiring in 2016.

"That is terrible news!" Trump said on Twitter of the tragedy, while Obama referred to him as "a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act".

Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan released a statement.

"Words can't describe the pain I am feeling. I loved Kobe - he was like a little brother to me," Jordan said.

"We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force."

Jordan's fellow NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird said Jones "was not only an icon in the sports arena, he was a man of the world and touched so many lives and communities in the most positive ways".

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the sport was "devastated by the tragic passing" of Bryant and his daughter.

Joel Embiid, a three-time NBA All-Star playing for Bryant's hometown team the Philadelphia 76ers, said he took up basketball after watching "legend" Bryant in action and wanted to emulate him.

The Cameroon-born centre wrote: "Man I don't even know where to start. I started playing ball because of KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched ball before that and that finals was the turning point of my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I'm so FREAKING SAD right now!!!! RIP LEGEND"

Shooting guard Dwyane Wade, who won three NBA titles with the Miami Heat and was a team-mate of Bryant's with the United States, wrote: "Nooooooooooo God please No!"

Bryant's former coach Phil Jackson said: "The crash was a tragedy for multiple families. My heart goes out to Vanessa and the families that lost loved ones. Kobe was a chosen one - special in many ways to many people. Our relationship as coach/player transcended the norm. He went beyond the veil."

Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tweeted: "Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players. But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete."

Legends from other sports also chimed in with their sorrows, with golfer Tiger Woods saying it's "an unbelievable reality that he's no longer here".

Former record-breaking Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt posted: "Still can't believe" along with a photo of him with Bryant.

Within hours of the news of the chopper crash, a fast-growing crowd of several hundred people had gathered outside LA's Staples Center to mourn in union.

Chants of "Kobe! Kobe!" broke out spontaneously outside the venue, home court to the Lakers. A black-and-white photo of Bryant populated screens featuring the message "In Loving Memory of Kobe Bryant, 1978-2020".

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis put a picture of Bryant on his Twitter account simply accompanied by the word "Heartbroken".

Three-time grand slam tennis champion Andy Murray paid tribute to him, saying on an Instagram story "This has hit me hard", while adding "Thinking of all his family, friends and colleagues."

Scores of footballers tweeted their shock and sadness, including US striker Alex Morgan, Manchester City duo Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling, Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford and Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku.

Serie A giants AC Milan tweeted: "We have no words to express how shocked we are to hear of the tragic passing of one of the greatest sportsmen of all time and Rossonero fan, Kobe Bryant."

Singer Bieber also put an old picture of him alongside Bryant on Instagram, saying: "It can't be. You always encouraged me mamba. Gave me me some of the best quotes that we smile about to this day.! Love you man!"

Rev. Jesse Jackson also took to Twitter.

"As I tweet through my tears, I am so hurt. I cannot stop crying. Kobe was instrumental to so many people. There is a hole in the basketball world and there will be for a long time. Rest in heavenly peace," Rev. Jackson wrote.

Team USA wrote: "We are deeply saddened by the loss of two-time Olympic champion Kobe Bryant. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones."

The National Basketball Players Association said it was stunned and devastated by the news.

"Words cannot express his impact on our players, the NBA and the game of basketball," it tweeted.

"This is a monumental loss for the entire basketball community and our hearts are quite simply broken."

© RAW 2020