Athletes, other celebrities react to Kobe Bryant's death: 'I'm at a loss for words'

Justin Chan

Athletes and other celebrities are reeling amid the sudden loss of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant. 

Bryant, who played his entire 20-year career with the team and cemented his legacy as one of professional basketball's greatest players, was among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday,  a source told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. He was 41. 

Sources told Wojnarwoski that Bryant was on his way to a travel basketball game with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant when the incident occurred. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said an investigation is ongoing. 

Multiple athletes, coaches and other celebrities were evidently shocked by the news. Shaquille O'Neal, who played with Bryant for eight seasons (1996 - 2004) on their way to leading the Lakers to three straight NBA titles between 2000 and 2002, mourned his former teammate's death on Twitter

"There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant," O'Neal tweeted, sharing multiple photos of the two together. "I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW." 

Fellow Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played 14 seasons with the team between 1975 and 1989 and won five titles, also paid tribute to Bryant, posting a nearly two-minute video on the social media platform. 

"It's very difficult for me to put in words how I feel about the loss of Kobe Bryant," he said. "As a young boy, I met him when he was 11 or 12 years old. I was friends with his dad Joe. We were former adversaries — Joe had played for the 76ers, but he was a good friend and someone that I shared a friendship [with]. And it's hard for to understand how this is affecting Joe and his wife, so, to Kobe's family, I want to send my most sincere and heartfelt regrets and prayers. My thoughts are with you guys." 

Michael Jordan, who won six rings with the Chicago Bulls and whose game influenced Bryant's, similarly released a statement that was obtained by Yahoo's senior NBA writer Vincent Goodwill. 

"I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing," part of the statement read. "Words can't describe the pain I'm feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. 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." 

In an interview with reporters, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers could not contain his emotions as he spoke of Bryant. Rivers had previously coached the Boston Celtics against Bryant's team in the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals. 

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

Former NBA coach and current NBA analyst Stan Van Gundy, who coached the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals matchup against Bryant's team in 2009, praised the former Laker for his work ethic and impact on the current game. 

"There have been a lot of great players in this league, but there are very few iconic guys," Van Gundy said. "You know, A.I. [Allen Iverson], Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Shaq ...  these are the guys that you're talking about that these [current NBA players] grew up on." 

Bryant's death also heavily affected those outside the world of sports. Chicago rapper and producer Kanye West, for instance, took to Twitter to share an old photo of the two, along with producer Swizz Beatz and rapper Yasiin Bey. 

"Kobe, We love you brother," he tweeted. "We’re praying for your family and appreciate the life you’ve lived and all the inspiration you gave."

Actor and comedian Martin Lawrence expressed remorse on Instagram as well. 

"I'm at a loss for words," he wrote. "My heart, prayers, and condolences go out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers." 

Actress Halle Berry echoed the same sentiment. 

"There are no real words to convey the depth of my sadness," she wrote on Twitter. "Love and strength to Kobe’s entire family and to the families of all who were lost in today’s crash."

Bryant was born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia. HIs father Joe Bryant was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1975 and played for multiple teams until 1983. In 1984, the elder Bryant took his family to Italy, where he played in the Italian League and where the younger Bryant spent most of his childhood. 

Bryant returned to Philadelphia in 1991 and would go on to lead the Lower Merion High School basketball team to four straight state championships. He was later drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 as the 13th overall pick and subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Over the course of his 20 year-career, the former NBA shooting guard proved to be a force to be reckoned with — he won five championships, was selected as an NBA All-Star 15 times, earned a regular-season NBA MVP Award, won two NBA Finals MVP Awards and was most recently the NBA's third all-time leading scorer until another Laker — LeBron James  — passed him on Saturday. 

Off the court, Bryant remained busy. He was a noted philanthropist, an investor in a sports drink and an Academy Award winner. He and his wife Vanessa Bryant had four children together.