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Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among the nine killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning in Calabasas, California. Besides being an all-star player for the Los Angeles Lakers, he was an Oscar-winning filmmaker, children’s book author, Olympic gold medalist, husband to Vanessa, father to Gianna, Bianka, Natalia, and Capri… and a friend and mentor to virtually all of Hollywood.
Now, celebrities are joining sports stars and fans in paying tribute to Kobe on social media – and they’re sending their condolences to Vanessa, too. Kobe’s longtime Lakers teammates Shaquille O’Neal and Lamar Odom, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are particularly heartbroken by the news, remembering Kobe as “so much more than an athlete.”
“There are no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my niece Gigi & my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie,” Shaq writes. “Whenever we got together I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. I miss you already brother. This is truly unbelievable.”
Michael Jordan has shared a statement about the tragic news, saying Kobe was like a “little brother” to him. “Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling, I loved Kobe – we used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much,” he says. “Kobe was an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball.”
Mark Cuban is setting aside No. 24 in Kobe’s honor, saying it will “never again be worn by a Dallas Maverick.” “Kobe’s legacy transcends basketball,” he adds. “Our hearts go out to all the lives lost and the families impacted by this terrible tragedy.”
ONE MORE THING! Fans are coming together to pay respects to Kobe at the same place he carved his NBA legacy, Los Angeles’ Staples Center. The Lakers’ home court has been transformed into a memorial to the late legend, covered in purple and yellow flowers, handmade signs, art, and more tributes.
Meanwhile… MSNBC anchor Alison Morris has apologized after taking heat over a very unfortunate on-air fumble. While reporting the tragic news of Kobe’s untimely death, Morris insists she stumbled over the names of the NBA teams Knicks and Lakers, uttering “Nakers” in a way that sounded like a certain racial slur. She’s apologized on Twitter for the mixup, insisting she’s “never used a racist term.”