Current, Former Yankees React to the Passing of Kobe Bryant

Max Goodman

The entire world stood still Sunday afternoon.

It doesn't matter if you're a sports fan or not, news of the tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant was tough to swallow. The future Hall of Famer Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, was aboard a helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, CA., taking the lives of the pilot and all eight passengers. 

It took hours for the reports to set in and it's still hard to believe. The painful reality, however, is that Kobe Bryant -- at age 41 -- is gone. 

To most, the Los Angeles Lakers' all-time great was known for his performance on the hardwood. Over 20 illustrious seasons, Bryant won five NBA titles and appeared in 18 All-Star Games -- he was a two-time scoring champion and winner of the league's Most Valuable Player Award in 2008.

What never showed up on the stat sheet, however, was that Bryant was a father to four daughters. His iconic 'mamba mentality' was a source of motivation and inspiration off the court. He was an ambassador to the game of basketball worldwide, a pioneer in business and on screen -- in 2017, he won an Oscar for his moving short film, "Dear Basketball."

Bryant was a role model and hero to so many individuals, no matter their background. His world-wide influence transcends race, color, gender and creed.

Among the countless tributes on all social media platforms over approximately the last 24 hours, many came from members of the New York Yankees family. 

Just days after his election into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Derek Jeter published some of his thoughts on Bryant's legacy in a heartfelt piece on The Players' Tribune:

It's a quick read, so if you have a moment, definitely take the time to click above. 

Overall, Jeter -- who like Kobe, played his rookie season in 1996 -- acknowledged a prolific career that stretched across two decades, but emphasized Bryant's love and devotion to his family as what mattered most.

"Which makes today’s events feel especially cruel — because no one needed less reminding than Kobe. I’ve seen the guy go for 81. I’ve seen him hit all kinds of buzzer beaters. I’ve seen him win gold medals and championship rings. But I’ve still never seen him look as happy, in those big moments on the court, as he looked the other day off of it: with an arm around Gigi, sitting courtside, and just….. talking. Yeah, sure, talking hoops — but you got the feeling in those moments that he would have been content talking about anything."

On social media, past and present Yankees shared similar sentiments. While some were in utter disbelief, others grieved the loss of a role model -- everyone extended their deepest condolences.

Alex Rodriguez -- who recalled meeting Bryant as a teenager, following in a similar path to their respective professional leagues -- posted a moving thread about the Lakers' legend. Rodriguez said he won't only remember Bryant's greatness with a basketball in his hand, but he'll remember how he inspired A-Rod to be a better all-around individual.

"People don't know this, but he was my secret coach," Rodriguez said. "He pushed me and motivated me, especially toward the end of my career when I needed him most."

Finally, Aaron Judge posted this gut-wrenching tweet after news broke on social media Sunday afternoon.

One of the other victims in the devastating crash was John Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, CA. Altobelli served as the head coach of the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod League from 2012-2014. In 2012, he had both Judge and New York Mets' phenom Jeff McNeil on his team. 

While Judge was speechless about the news, McNeil shared his thoughts on their former coach with the following in a tweet:

"Tough to hear the news of coach Altobelli. One of my favorite coaches I have ever played for and one of the main reasons I got a chance to play professional baseball. Both the baseball and basketball world lost a great one today."

Altobelli's wife and daughter were also among those killed in the crash. His daughter, Alyssa, was on the same youth basketball team as Bryant's daughter.

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