Michael Jordan has issued a statement remembering Kobe Bryant after the Los Angeles Lakers legend and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California on Sunday morning.
TMZ was the first to report that Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people on the helicopter when it went down in the hills of Calabasas and a fire broke out. The crash occurred before 10 a.m. local time, and the fire made it difficult for firefighters and emergency personnel to get to the aircraft, according to the Los Angeles Times. No names were released by authorities as they continue an investigation into the crash.
"I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing. Words can't describe the pain I'm feeling. I loved Kobe – he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball. Yvette joins me in sending my deepest condolences to Vanessa, the Lakers organization and basketball fans around the world."
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. Bryant 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 December 2017.
He was 17 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.
In 2014, Bryant passed Jordan for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list. He held onto that spot until Saturday night, when LeBron James eclipsed him.
After the game, James paid his respect to Bryant and said, "I'm happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers. The man has two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It's just crazy.""
More Coverage of Kobe Bryant's Death:
- Kobe Bryant, Daughter Die in California Helicopter Crash
- For the Bryant Family, An Unimaginable Loss
- Kobe Bryant Left His Mark as a Generational Hero
- Sports World Reacts to Kobe Bryant's Sudden Death
- Remembering Kobe Bryant: Sports Illustrated Covers Through the Years
- Spurs-Raptors Open Game With Shot Clock Violations to Honor Kobe
- Shaq Reflects on Kobe's Passing: "There’s No Words to Express the Pain"