LOS ANGELES: Kobe Bryant’s laserlike focus and sublime skills were remembered Sunday by NBA colleagues, fans and athletes he inspired as they absorbed the shock of his death at the age of 41.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and two-time Olympic gold medallist, died in a fiery helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
“We laughed and joked about the Mamba mentality. We’re all going to need it right now,” an emotional Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before his team played the Magic in Orlando in one of eight NBA games on the night.
Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, was washed in the Lakers colours of purple and gold, and so were the pylons that mark the entrance to Los Angeles International Airport.
In San Antonio, the Spurs and Toronto Raptors both committed 24-second shot-clock violations on their opening possessions in honour of Bryant — who wore No. 24 in the later stages of his career.
“The NBA family is devastated,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “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.”
Six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan said Bryant would be remembered as one of the game’s greatest.
“Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling,” Jordan said. “I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me.”
That sentiment was echoed by Shaquille O’Neal – who won three NBA titles and also famously feuded with Bryant in Los Angeles.
The grief was felt beyond the basketball court.
“The world lost a legend today, but the impact and legacy he leaves behind will last forever,” Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao — an avid basketball fan – tweeted. – AFP