THE sporting world was in mourning last night following the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash.
The 41-year-old former LA Lakers player was killed when his Sikorsky S-76 came down in the hills outside Calabasas, California, yesterday.
All eight people with him in the helicopter died, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna — known as GiGi — who was a rising basketball star.
His wife Vanessa Laine and their other three daughters — the youngest just seven months old — were not thought to have been on board.
‘Devastated to hear the news,’ tweeted fellow basketball legend Dennis Rodman. ‘Prayers go out to his wife Vanessa and his children and the @Lakers family.’
Khloe Kardashian posted: ‘This can’t be real, there’s no way!!!’
Actress Whoopi Goldberg wrote: ‘RIP Kobe, hero to many, extraordinary athletes and always kind to me & my family.’
And singer Paula Abdul tweeted: ‘I am devastated at the unexpected passing of my dear friend.’
Bryant – known as ‘Black Mamba’ — led the US basketball team to Olympic gold at London in 2012 and was one of the sport’s greatest players, making the NBA all-star team 18 times. He spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, with whom he won five NBA championships. They retired both his numbers — eight and 24 — their only player to receive that honour, when he called it a day in 2016. The 6ft 6in star turned to filmmaking and won an Oscar in 2018 for his animated short Dear Basketball.
Accepting his award he said: ‘As basketball players, we’re supposed to shut up and dribble. But I’m glad we do a little bit more than that.’
UK long jump gold medallist Greg Rutherford described him as ‘one of the most iconic sportsmen of all time’.
The copter was thought to have been taking the Bryants and another child and parent to training.