As news broke about the tragic and untimely death of NBA icon Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, an outpouring of condolences flooded social media platforms as fans, celebrities, athletes and coaches around the world reacted in shock and disbelief.
Sportswriter Jon Machota started early, tweeting a video of fellow Laker LeBron James, just yesterday, recalling his first time meeting and being influenced by Bryant and how much he’s still motivated by him today.
James, who passed Kobe on the NBA all-time scoring list for third place Saturday, also wore shoes last night honoring Bryant on what happened to be the eve of his passing.
Incidentally, Kobe’s last tweet, which he posted last night, was also in praise of LeBron for passing him on the list.
The rest of the world was shaken up as well; the NFL held a moment of silence at the Pro Bowl, and both the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs took 24-second violations as they ran out the shot clock on their first possessions to honor the fallen star.
TV analyst Jay Williams got emotional as he urged anyone watching at home to make peace with any loved ones they may have problems with and to simply “let that shit go.”
Eight NBA games were on the schedule for Sunday, and the Rockets-Nuggets game in Denver and the Raptors-Spurs game in San Antonio proceeded, with tribute videos and a moment of silence. Many wondered how these players were able to focus on their games with such heavy hearts.
Of course, Bryant’s reach expanded beyond the sports world as national figures from music and politics shared their condolences, including Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Questlove, and Joe Biden:
The Washington Post reported that the San Francisco 49ers learned the news as they prepared to fly to Miami for Super Bowl LIV and Richard Sherman, the cornerback who always has plenty to say had nothing to describe the hurt in his heart. “Just don’t have the words,” he tweeted as he and the team prepared to depart for Miami.
Many of us feel the same. The shock and sadness are just too fresh and potent to process right now. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was 41.
Update 1/26/19, 6:46 p.m. ET: President Obama sent a heartfelt message on the passing of the NBA icon:
And NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement:
“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.
“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. But 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. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.
“We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization and the entire sports world.”