The Dallas Mavericks will retire the number 24 jersey in honour of Kobe Bryant after the Los Angeles Lakers great's sudden death. 

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna 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.

The Mavericks - the Lakers' Western Conference rivals - paid the ultimate tribute to 18-time All-Star Bryant.

"We are shocked and saddened by the devastating news of the passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in a statement.

"Kobe was an ambassador for our game, a decorated legend and a global icon. Above all, he was a loving and dedicated father.

"Kobe's legacy transcends basketball, and our organisation has decided that the number 24 will never again be worn by a Dallas Maverick.

"Our hearts go out to all the lives lost and the families impacted by this terrible tragedy. We send our thoughts and prayers to Vanessa and the family, the Lakers organisation and Kobe Bryant fans everywhere."

Bryant and the Lakers enjoyed some memorable clashes with the Mavericks in the west.

The Mavericks claimed their only championship in 2011 after sweeping Bryant's Lakers in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Bryant averaged 23.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Lakers in that series.

Rafael Nadal led tributes from the ATP Tour following the tragic death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died following a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed.

Five-time NBA champion Bryant transcended basketball after his selection in the 1996 draft, going on to spend his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, where he claimed two Finals MVPs to go with his 2008 Most Valuable Player honour.

As the sporting world mourns his death, 19-time grand slam champion and world number one Rafael Nadal tweeted: "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."

Rod Laver - one of the greatest tennis players of all time with 11 major titles - wrote: "Terribly sad to wake up to this news today. RIP Kobe Bryant. Too young. Deepest condolences to family and friends of the sporting legend."

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic had only spoken about Bryant - who attended last year's US Open - and his impact last week.

Prior to Sunday's fourth-round win over Diego Schwartzman at Melbourne Park, 16-time slam champion Djokovic provided an insight into Bryant following a difficult spell in 2018, which saw the Serbian star drop out of the top 20 due to an elbow injury.

"Kobe has been one of my mentors," Djokovic told ESPN. "I've had several phone conversations with him and also of course when we see each other live in the past couple of years. 

"When I was going through the injury with my elbow and struggling to mentally and emotionally handle all of these different things that were happening to me and dropping in the rankings and then having to work my way up, he was one of the people who was really there for me to give me some very valuable advice and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I'll be back.

"I'm very grateful to him for being there for me, for being very supportive. I love Kobe, who doesn't? He's an amazing guy and one of the best basketball players and athletes of all-time."

Gregg Popovich shared a "deep sense of loss" and Doc Rivers battled tears as two of the NBA's most recognisable coaches addressed Kobe Bryant's death.

Los Angeles Lakers legend Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed their deaths after the news was initially reported by American outlet TMZ.

Nine people were believed to have been killed in the incident, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced. There were no survivors.

The San Antonio Spurs were among the first teams to take to the court after the news emerged and head coach Popovich said their sorrow would stretch far and wide.

"Everybody's pretty emotional about the tragedy with Kobe," Popovich told reporters after a 110-106 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

"All of us know what a great player he was, but he went beyond great playing. He was a competitor that goes unmatched. It's what made him as a player so attractive to everybody, that focus, that competitiveness, that will to win.

"Even more importantly than that, we all feel a deep sense of loss for what he meant to all of us, in so many ways. So many millions of people loved him for so many different reasons. It's just a tragic thing.

"We all think about the family and the process they're going to be going through right now. That's where our thoughts should be."

Los Angeles Clippers coach Rivers retired from playing the season before Bryant debuted and struggled through an emotional news conference prior to his team's game against the Orlando Magic.

"The news is just devastating to everybody who knew him a long time," he said. "He means a lot to me, obviously. He was such a great opponent. It's what you want in sports.

"He had that DNA that very few athletes can ever have. I was getting to know him more since he retired. This is a tough one.

"The news is just devastating for [wife] Vanessa and his family. So many people he touched. Looking at my young players and how emotional they are, they didn't know him and that tells you how far his reach was."

Cristiano Ronaldo has labelled Kobe Bryant a "true legend" after the Los Angeles Lakers great died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna, passed away along with seven others after the helicopter he was travelling in crashed near the Californian city of Calabasas in Los Angeles County.

Figures from across the world of sport paid tribute to the former Lakers star – a five-time NBA champion.

While Neymar dedicated one of his goals for Paris Saint-Germain against Lille to the 41-year-old and Lionel Messi also hailed Bryant, Ronaldo posted his condolences to Twitter.

"So sad to hear the heartbreaking news of the deaths of Kobe and his daughter Gianna," Ronaldo tweeted.

"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."

"You were a genius like few others". That was the message from Barcelona captain Lionel Messi after the tragic death of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died following a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed.

Five-time NBA champion Bryant transcended basketball after his selection in the 1996 draft, going on to spend his entire 20-year career with the Lakers.

Football superstar and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi joined the list of mourners, using Instagram to write: "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. You were a genius like few others."

Bryant was the face of the Lakers, even after his retirement in 2016.

The guard earned MVP honours in 2008, while he was named the Most Valuable Player in the 2009 and 2010 NBA Finals.

Bryant was also an 18-time All-Star to go with numerous other accolades, including two Olympic Games gold medals with the United States.

Tiger Woods called it "a shocker" to learn his friend Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash.

Golf's 15-time major winner is an ardent Los Angeles Lakers fan and paid tribute to his fellow global sporting superstar.

Woods learned of the news after completing his final round at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego on Sunday.

Bryant was one of nine people on board a helicopter that crashed at approximately 10am in Los Angeles County, California, local authorities said.

His daughter, Gianna, also died in the tragedy, the NBA announced.

Bryant, who won five NBA championships with the Lakers and piled up personal accolades, was nicknamed 'Mamba', and golf fans had been urging an oblivious Woods to produce a magical round in the basketball great's memory.

"I didn't really understand why the people were saying, 'Do it for Mamba'," Woods said.

"But now I understand. It's a shocker for everyone. I'm unbelievably sad."

Woods said Bryant was an inspiration as a player.

"He brought it each and every night on both ends of the floor," Woods told CBS. "Not too many guys can say that throughout NBA history.

"He locked up on D [defense], obviously he was dominant on the offensive side, but anytime he was in the game he'd take on their best player and just shut him down for all 48 minutes and that was one of the more impressive things I think in his entire career.

"When he ruptured his Achilles and went to the foul line and made his shots, that's tough."

Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday aged 41, will be remembered as one of basketball's all-time greats.

The Los Angeles Lakers legend and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna tragically died in a crash in Calabasas, a city in California.

Five NBA championships, 18 All-Star appearances, All-NBA First Team honours on 11 occasions and nine All-Defensive First Team selections – Bryant's staggering career spanned 20 years and was spent solely with the Lakers.

Bryant – the self-styled 'Black Mamba' – became the first guard to be drafted straight out of high school when he went 13th overall in the 1996 NBA Draft, with the Lakers sending center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for the rights to select him.

While he spent most of his first season playing limited minutes off the bench, a display of the superstar talent that would go on to transcend the game came when, at 18, he became the youngest player to win the Slam Dunk Contest at the 1997 All-Star weekend.

It did not take long for comparisons to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to emerge in his breakout season in 1998-99, when Bryant started all 50 games in a season shortened due to a lockout and earned a six-year contract extension worth $70million.

It was a decision that quickly paid dividends as the Lakers established one of the league's greatest dynasties, winning the title in each of the next three campaigns with Bryant forming a formidable partnership alongside dominant center Shaquille O'Neal.

Their relationship was fractious – Bryant's hard-working philosophy and insatiable desire for improvement, the 'Mamba Mentality', often at odds with what he perceived to be a less professional approach from O'Neal. However, their chemistry on the floor was undeniable as the Lakers won three championships in succession from 2000 until 2002, only the fifth time in history a three-peat had been achieved.

Bryant and O'Neal parted ways after the 2004 NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons and the following year the Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons. A positive response to adversity is the hallmark of a champion and Bryant was seemingly spurred onto greater heights by that setback.

In the 2005-06 campaign Bryant averaged a league-leading 35.4 points per game during the regular season – he scored a career-high 81 points in a 122-104 victory against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006, an iconic performance with a tally that only Wilt Chamberlain has bettered.

However, his wait for another ring continued with upset losses to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the postseason in 2006 and 2007. Again, Bryant stepped up his level in response and was named NBA MVP as the Lakers returned to the Finals in 2008, but they went down 4-2 to the Boston Celtics.

There was soon reason for celebration as Bryant led the United States to gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 – something he did again in London four years later – and his wait for a fourth ring was over when the Lakers overcame the Orlando Magic in the 2009 Finals after an impressive 65-17 record in the regular season.

The Lakers rallied from 3-2 down in the following year's Finals to triumph in Game 7, but following the departure of head coach Phil Jackson the franchise slumped into obscurity.

A torn Achilles ended Bryant's season in April 2013 and injuries soon became a persistent problem for the veteran guard, but at 35 he earned a two-year extension that ensured he remained the league's best-paid player.

He said goodbye to the NBA in 2016 in typically distinguished fashion – a 60-point game against the Utah Jazz in the series finale on April 13 seeing him sign off in style. Bryant was honoured by the Lakers with his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys being retired to the rafters at Staples Center.

Bryant's final game was a fitting farewell and a testament to the perseverance and dedication that rightfully earned him the status of a legend and giant of the sport.

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."

Joel Embiid, Luka Doncic and Pau Gasol were among those to pay tribute on Sunday as news broke of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant's passing.

Bryant, 41, was one of nine people who lost their lives in a helicopter crash close to the city of Calabasas in Los Angeles County, California.

The Lakers icon's 13-year-old daughter Gianna also died in the incident.

A number of NBA players led tributes to Bryant, while others were involved in games on Sunday, with a moment's silence observed at the Denver Nuggets.

Philadelphia 76ers' Embiid was among the first to react, describing himself as "so freaking sad" as he reflected on the death of an inspirational star.

"Man I don't even know where to start," he wrote on Twitter. "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"

MVP candidate Luka Doncic uploaded a picture with Bryant's daughter, writing: "this is so sad! RIP"

Bryant's former Lakers team-mate Pau Gasol posted: "Beyond devastated... my big brother... I can’t, I just can't believe it."

Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green simply posted: "Stunned!"

Similarly, the Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard wrote: "Wow."

Bryant was born in Philadelphia, and the Sixers were among the teams to post a statement in response to his death.

"The Philadelphia 76ers organisation mourns the losses of NBA icon Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and all of those who passed away tragically today in an accident in California," it read.

"Bryant, one of the most decorated players in NBA history and a global ambassador for the game, made an everlasting mark on our league.

"His determination, passion to win and fierce competitiveness fuelled the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships and inspired millions of people around the world. 

"Bryant's journey to icon status in the world of basketball included deep ties to the Philadelphia region, where he starred at Lower Merion High School from 1992-96.

As he honed his craft in Philadelphia, Bryant established a reputation as a player with once-in-a-lifetime poise, grit, heart and an unwavering love of the game.
 
"While his imprint on the game of basketball will be etched in the history books forever, Bryant will also be remembered for his love of his family, commitment to community through his philanthropic work, and for being an innovative leader in business.

"The 76ers organisation sends its sincerest condolences to Vanessa Bryant and the Bryant family during this incredibly difficult time.

"We also send our condolences to Jeanie Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers organisation and Kobe Bryant fans everywhere."

Michael Jordan has paid tribute to "little brother" Kobe Bryant after his fellow NBA legend died in a helicopter crash.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people on board a helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, a city in California, on Sunday.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed Bryant and Gianna, who also played basketball, died in the incident after the news was initially reported by American outlet TMZ.

Bryant, who spent his whole NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, will go down in history as a great of the game.

Jordan said in a statement released through his manager that Bryant was like family to him.

"I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing," 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.

"Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply - and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball.

"Yvette [Jordan's wife] joins me in sending my deepest condolences to Vanessa [Bryant's wife], the Lakers organisation and basketball fans around the world."

Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna have died in a helicopter crash, NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed.

American news outlet TMZ reported that Bryant and his daughter died in a crash in Calabasas, a city in California, around 10am local time on Sunday. 

Speaking at a news conference, Los Angeles County sheriff Alex Villanueva announced nine people were on board, though he did not confirm their identities.

Silver said: "The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

"For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals.

"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.

"He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.

"We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organisation and the entire sports world."

TMZ said eyewitness told how they heard the helicopter's engine stuttering before it went down and a fire broke out, with emergency services responding.

Villanueva provided an update to the media at a news conference alongside Los Angeles County Fire Department chief Daryl Osby but said it would be "inappropriate" to name the deceased.

"Personnel responded to the scene of the fire, assisted fire department, established containment area," said Villanueva.

"The FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] is already on scene and assisting. We're awaiting the arrival of the coroner's office to assist with the recovery of the remains. As the chief [Osby] indicated there were no survivors. We have a manifest copy which indicates there were nine people onboard the aircraft – the pilot plus eight individuals. 

"There is wide speculation as to who the people are but it would be highly inappropriate right now to identify anyone by name until the coroner has made identification through their deliberate process and made notifications to the next of kin.

"It would be extremely disrespectful to learn your loved one has perished through TMZ, that is just wholly inappropriate so we will not be going there. We'll wait until the coroner does her job.

"We are assisting the families of those we believe who have been impacted. It's a tough process. Our hope goes out to all of the families of everyone on board and God bless their souls.

"At this point there is nothing we can add until the coroner does her job. When we have the information and know the rest of kin have been notified, then we can release the information publicly. [The media] will be notified in subsequent announcements."

Asked if there were nine bodies at the scene, Villanueva replied: "That is our belief, yes."

Bryant spent his entire 20-year career from 1996 until 2006 with the Lakers.

He was selected with the 13th overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 draft before being traded to the Lakers.

The Los Angeles franchise famously retired both of Bryant's jerseys – the numbers eight and 24 – making him the only player in the team's history to receive that honour.

Kobe Bryant was a man whose influence reached far further than the basketball court, though his extraordinary numbers in the NBA are what made him such a legendary figure.

The Los Angeles Lakers hero was tragically killed in a helicopter crash at the age of 41 on Sunday, leading to an outpouring of tributes for one of the all-time greats.

Bryant's list of achievements over a 20-year career with the Lakers are the stuff of legend and his numbers stack up against the best to have played the game.

Here we take a look at Bryant's scarcely believable statistics with the help of StatsPerform data.

 

5 - He won the NBA championship five times with the Lakers, in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010.

2 - He was twice named MVP in the NBA Finals, in 2009 and 2010.

18 - Bryant was a fixture in the NBA All-Star team, named to that side in 1998 and then each year from 2000 to 2016, the year that he retired. Those 18 appearances put him second on the all-time list, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing in 19 of the games.

4 - Bryant was four times the NBA All-Star Game MVP, in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

1 - He received his lone NBA MVP award for the 2007-08 season, during which he became the youngest player to reach 20,000 career points, at the age of 29 years and 122 days.

33,643 - He sits fourth on the NBA all-time list of points-scorers with 33,643 from 1,346 games. Only Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and LeBron James, who overtook Bryant's career total on Saturday, are ahead of him on the list.

35.4 - In the 2005-06 season, Bryant recorded his highest points-per-game average for a single campaign, with 35.4. He led the NBA in scoring in that season and in 2006-07.

81 - On January 22, 2006, Bryant scored 81 points in a 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center. That is the second highest individual score in an NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in 1962.

60 - In his final game, on April 13, 2016, Bryant scored 60 points for the Lakers in a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz.

15 - Bryant received All-NBA honours in 15 seasons, being named in the first team on 11 occasions. Only LeBron James, with 12 appearances in the first team, beats Bryant's total.

9 - He was named nine times to the NBA All-Defense first team, matching the all-time high. Kevin Garnett, Michael Jordan and Gary Payton achieved the same total.

17 - Bryant was an NBA player of the month 17 times, and 32 times the player of the week.

2 - Bryant's success was not limited to NBA action either. He won Olympic gold medals with the United States in 2008 and 2012.

1 - He won an Oscar too, after his playing career ended, landing the Best Animated Short Film prize at the 2018 Academy Awards for Dear Basketball.

Neymar has paid tribute to Kobe Bryant after the basketball icon was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar scored twice as the Ligue 1 leaders ran out 2-0 victors over Lille, and dedicated his second goal to Bryant by holding up two fingers on one hand and four on the other – Bryant having worn the number 24 jersey for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Following the final whistle, Neymar – a basketball fan – hailed Bryant's impact, stating his death is a sad moment for the entire world of sport.

"I looked at the messages at half-time," Neymar told Canal+. "This is a time of immense sadness for the world of sport and for all of us, not just basketball fans.

"I knew him and I made this celebration to pay tribute to him. I hope he rests in peace."

Bryant won five NBA championships and made 18 NBA All-Star teams during a 20-year stint with the Lakers.

Sporting stars from across the globe, including Tom Brady and Neymar, have paid tribute to Kobe Bryant after the Los Angeles Lakers icon was killed in a helicopter crash.

Bryant, 41, died on Sunday in a crash close to the city of Calabasas in Los Angeles County, California.

Eight others on board, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, also lost their lives.

Following the initial reports of Bryant's passing, athletes and teams from across the world of sport posted their tributes to the Lakers great on social media.

New England Patriots great Brady wrote on his Twitter page: "We miss you already, Kobe."

Patrick Mahomes, another superstar NFL quarterback, said: "Man, not Kobe. Prayers to his family and friends!"

Bryant was an Olympic champion like Usain Bolt, the great sprinter, who posted a picture of the former NBA star on his page.

"Still can't believe ⁦[it] @kobebryant," he said.

World number one golfer Brooks Koepka posted a lengthy message in memory of his "hero".

"Kobe Bryant was my HERO growing up. Even to this day he was an inspiration to the way I approached things," he wrote, adding: "His mentality motivated me not only in hard times but throughout my whole life. RIP, Kobe."

Footballer Raheem Sterling said: "Rest easy, legend."

Meanwhile, Neymar, who scored twice in Paris Saint-Germain's win over Lille on Sunday, dedicated his second goal to the Lakers legend.

Drew Brees spoke to ESPN from the Pro Bowl, saying of Bryant: "I had the chance to meet him one time. He was a guy I hoped to have the chance to be around more.

"I had so much respect for him as a competitor. I know he inspired so many people in so many different ways.

"He was one of the great competitors of any generation - not just with sports but the way he approached a lot of things with what he was doing now after basketball.

"I pray for him, I pray for his family. It's a tragic loss."

Former United States president Barack Obama paid tribute to Kobe Bryant following the death of the Los Angeles Lakers great.

Bryant, 41, an 18-time NBA All-Star, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died on Sunday, the league announced, following a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California.

The former Lakers star spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles team, winning five championships.

Bryant had various business interests following his retirement, too, and won an Academy Award for his short film 'Dear Basketball'.

Obama wrote on Twitter that the NBA "legend" had been "just getting started" on his "second act".

The former president, a father of two, also reflected on Gianna's "heartbreaking" death.

"Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act," Obama said.

"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."

Current president Donald Trump relayed reports of Bryant's death on his own Twitter page and wrote: "That is terrible news!"

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