Sports stars around the world pay tribute to basketball star Kobe Bryant

  • Video report by ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott

Sports stars around the world are among those paying tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

The ex-Lakers player died when the private helicopter came down near Calabasa, California at around 10am local time.

Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, is also believed to have died in the crash along with seven others.

Brazilian footballer Neymar dedicated his goal for Paris Saint-Germain to Bryant, putting up two fingers on one hand and four on the other for the Lakers legend who wore the number 24 shirt.

Tennis star Nick Kyrgios wore a Bryant shirt as a tribute while he warmed up for his fourth round singles match against Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open.

Cristiano Ronaldo meanwhile tweeted to described Bryant as a "true legend" and "inspiration".

World Cup Winner Paul Pogba tweeted "legends are forever" and said his prayers are with his family and all the victims of the crash.

Real Madrid's players and coaches held a minute's silence in memory of Bryant before their training session on Monday.

Kobe Bryant died alongside daughter Gianna. Credit: AP

Shaquille O'Neal led tributes from the world of the NBA, having won three championships with Bryant between 200 and 2002.

One of NBA’s most popular players, who won five championships, Bryant and his family have received condolences from celebrities, politicians and fans alike.

Fellow LA Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal said there were "no words to express the pain I'm going through."

"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," O'Neil posted, alongside several pictures of the pair.

Michael Jordan, arguably the most famous basketball player of all time, said: "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 organisation and basketball fans around the world."

Former Lakers head coach Del Harris reflected on Sunday on Bryant's early career.

Harris was the head coach when Bryant joined the team and appeared in his first NBA game in 1996.

He actually knew Bryant since he was four years old, having coached Bryant's father with the Houston Rockets years earlier.

He said: "He was only 17 when Jerry drafted him and 18 by the time he got in an NBA game.

"And he was such a wonderful kid. But more than that, has turned into a wonderful adult man."

Fans of Kobe Bryant mourn at the Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers. Credit: AP

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement the NBA family was "devastated by the tragic news."

"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," Mr Silver added.

"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 organisation and the entire sports world."

A fan pays respects at a mural depicting Kobe Bryant in a downtown Los Angeles. Credit: AP

Barack Obama called the basketball star a “legend on the court” as he and wife Michelle sent their “love and prayers” to the family of Bryant and his daughter.

“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” the former president tweeted.

“To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”

Obama, a known basketball fan, famously mimicked Bryant’s “Mamba out” mic drop at his final White House correspondents’ dinner in 2016.

Actress and television personality Whoopi Goldberg said Bryant was a “hero” to her family in a tribute on Twitter.

“RIP Kobe, hero to many including my grandson, extraordinary athlete and always kind to me and my family. My deepest condolences to his family,” she said.

Actor Jamie Foxx shared several posts in tribute to Kobe Bryant on Instagram, the fifth of which is a clip from a conversation they had a few days ago, he said.

He wrote along with the post: "Just a few days ago you opened up your heart and bought out theatres for the inner city.

"We got a chance to chop it up. My heart breaks looking back at this."

Actor Idris Elba wrote on Twitter: “Kobe is G. Will always be remembered. A sad day.”

While current England forward Raheem Sterling wrote: "Rest easy Legend".

Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles posted a photo of the US gymnastics team with Bryant, saying: “Rest in peace Kobe”.

US politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez paid tribute to Bryant and the other passengers of the helicopter.

She said on Twitter: “Deeply shocked at the news of Kobe Bryant and four others lost today. Sending all my thoughts to their families and loved ones in this devastating moment.”

Tributes at the Grammys

Lizzo kicked off the Grammys telecast with a tribute to basketball star Kobe Bryant.

"Tonight is for Kobe," the R&B singer-songwriter declared as she conducted an orchestra and launched into her song "Cuz I Love You" at the start of the show.

Host Alicia Keys opened the Grammys in downtown LA by saying the ceremony was cloaked in sadness following the deaths.

"We're all feeling crazy sadness right now, because earlier today Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero," she told those gathered inside the Staples Centre.

Outside thousands of devastated fans gathered to pay tribute at the home of the team where Bryant spent all 20 seasons of his NBA career.

DJ Khaled said the news about Bryant's death was "devastating." He took part in a tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle that also included John Legend, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG. They performed "Letter to Nipsey" and "Higher".

(From left) YG, John Legend, Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled and Meek Mill point to a screen showing Hussle and Kobe Bryant at the Grammys. Credit: AP

At the end of the performance, each performer turned around and pointed toward a screen with a picture of Hussle and Bryant. The tribute prompted a standing ovation that lasted for more than a minute.

"Love live Nip. Long live Kobe Bryant. Long live Gianna. The marathon continues," Khaled said.

Lil Nas X had a Bryant jersey draped over a chair at the beginning of their performance of "Old Town Road."

And Run-DMC member Joseph "Run" Simmons held up a white Bryant Jersey during the group's performance of "Walk This Way" with Aerosmith.

Kanye West tweeted a picture of himself with Bryant and wrote: "Kobe, We love you brother We're praying for your family and appreciate the life you've lived and all the inspiration you gave."

Singer Justin Bieber posted a photo of himself as a child with Bryant on Instagram.

He said: “It can’t be. You always encouraged me mamba. Gave me me some of the best quotes that we smile about to this day! Love you man!”

Actress Reese Witherspoon said she was “devastated” to hear the news of Bryant’s death.

She said on Twitter: “Just devastated to hear about Kobe Bryant. An extraordinary athlete, and a genuinely kind, wonderful man. Sending love, prayers and compassion to his family.”

“Continuing to move the game forward (at) King James,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet.

“Much respect my brother.”

Taylor Swift tweeted: “My heart is in pieces hearing the news of this unimaginable tragedy.

“I can’t fathom what the families are going through. Kobe meant so much to me and to us all.

“Sending my prayers, love, and endless condolences to Vanessa and the family and anyone who lost someone on that flight.”

Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic.

He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown.