The sporting world was plunged into mourning on Sunday as news of Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash spread leaving the rich and famous, presidents, Hall of Famers and ordinary fans stunned.
A true global superstar, the depth of Bryant’s popularity quickly surfaced as reports were confirmed that the Los Angeles Lakers great had been killed along with his daughter Gianna and seven others when his helicopter crashed in a remote field near the city of Calabasas.
The cause of the crash was unknown, and an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board could take months.
As the deaths were confirmed social media exploded in grief while television programming was interrupted to report on the tragedy
As the deaths were confirmed social media exploded in grief while television programming was interrupted to report on the tragedy with video showing smoke billowing from the crash site as first responders put out the flames.
US President Donald Trump was among the first to take to Twitter to express his shock.
“Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news!” tweeted Trump.
Trump and former US President Barack Obama agree on little but were united in their grief over the five-time NBA champion’s untimely passing.
“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents,” Obama wrote on Twitter.
Where Bryant’s death hit close to home was on the basketball courts, where his skill and personality made him one of world’s most recognisable and popular athletes.
“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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.
“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.”
But perhaps it was three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade who best expressed the disbelief and sadness that washed over the league, tweeting: “Nooooooooooo God please No!”
Two of the greatest players of all-time, Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, praised Bryant as one of the best ever to set foot on the court but noted he was an even better person.