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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Reflects on Kobe's Legacy: Bryant 'Was Much More Than an Athlete'

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Memorials and messages were all over social media after news broke that Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died suddenly Sunday in a helicopter crash at age 41. 

Fellow Los Angeles legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar addressed the news, writing in a tweet, "Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players. But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete."

Shaquille O'Neal also responded to his friend's death, writing, "There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice (sic) Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW."

TMZ was the first to report that Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among those on the helicopter when it went down in the hills of Calabasas and a fire broke out. The crash occurred before 10 a.m. PT, and the fire made it difficult for firefighters and emergency personnel to get to the aircraft, according to the Los Angeles Times.

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters that nine people were on board the aircraft—the pilot plus eight people.

An internal memo has circulated among NBA employees confirming Gianna's death, according to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix.

The 18-time All-Star and 11-time All-NBA first-teamer led the Lakers to five NBA championships and scored 33,643 points in his 20-year NBA career. He retired after the 2015-16 season, having spent his entire career with the Lakers. The franchise retired his No. 8 and No. 24 jersey numbers in Dec. 2017.

He was 17 years old when he was selected with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets before being traded to the Lakers. He went on to become the Lakers' franchise leader in points, games played, three-pointers, steals and free throws.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has scheduled a news conference near the scene at 5 p.m. ET.

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