NBA

Kobe Bryant dead: Greatest Laker of all-time is gone - Magic Johnson mourns tragedy

By Sports Desk January 26, 2020

Magic Johnson said the "greatest Laker of all-time is gone" as the Hall of Famer mourned the tragic death of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna - known as Gigi - died following a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed.

A five-time NBA champion with the Lakers, 2008 MVP Bryant is regarded as one of the all-time greats following 20 years in Los Angeles, where the 41-year-old has two jerseys retired at Staples Center.

Another Lakers great and five-time champion Johnson paid tribute to 18-time All-Star Bryant, who was drafted by the storied Los Angeles franchise in 1996.

"As I try to write this post, my mind is racing. 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. [Johnson's wife] Cookie and I are heartbroken," Johnson wrote. "I love him, his family and what he stood for on the court and off the court.

"My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone. It's hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players.

"He gave his knowledge, time, and talent to tutor so many at the youth level, collegiate level, and NBA and WNBA players. Words can't express the impact that he had on the game of basketball. I know basketball fans all over the world will miss him, especially the city of Los Angeles.

"He was such an icon but also did so much for LA. He was passionate about serving the homeless and was an advocate for women's basketball. Coaching his daughter's basketball team brought him so much happiness.

"Kobe and I shared so many special conversations about life and basketball. We had so much in common off the court. I used to love talking to him about Lakers basketball, being fathers and husbands and how much we loved Italy. I will miss those conversations and him so much.

"Laker Nation, the game of basketball and our city, will never be the same without Kobe. Cookie and I are praying for [Bryant's wife] Vanessa, his beautiful daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri, as well as his parents Joe and Pam and his sisters.

"We will always be here for the Bryant family. We love you forever. #8 #24"

Johnson's on-court rival Larry Bird also paid tribute to Bryant in a statement released through the Indiana Pacers.

"I know we will all be struggling to find the words to express our sense of deep sorrow and tragic loss of losing Kobe and his daughter, Gianna," Boston Celtics icon Bird said.

"Kobe 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.

"His star was continuing to rise every day and he knew no limits because of his many intellectual and creative talents and desire to give back to others - his passion for the game, for his family and for others was apparent in everything he accomplished.

"My family and I send our condolences to Kobe's family, our hearts are broken."

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