US president Donald Trump pays tribute to Kobe Bryant
Barack Obama and show business celebrities offer condolences after athlete’s death
US president Donald Trump and celebrities have paid tribute to retired basketball player Kobe Bryant after his death in a helicopter crash.
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Bryant (41) died alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in the crash in Southern California on Sunday morning.
Widely considered one of the best basketball players ever and one of the highest profile sporting figures in the US, Bryant’s death was mourned widely.
Mr Trump described the deaths of Bryant and Gianna as “devastating” and sent condolences to widow “Vanessa and the wonderful Bryant family”.
“Kobe Bryant, despite being one of the truly great basketball players of all time, was just getting started in life,” the president tweeted.
“He loved his family so much, and had such strong passion for the future. The loss of his beautiful daughter, Gianna, makes this moment even more devastating.”
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 devasted fans gathered to pay tribute at the home of the team where Bryant spent all 20 seasons of his NBA career.
High-profile figures from music, film and politics also mourned the star ahead of the awards ceremony.
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.”
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.”
Canadian singer Justin Bieber posted a photo of the pair when he was a child, with the caption: “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!”
Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon said she was “devastated”.
She tweeted: “Just devastated to hear about #KobeBryant . An extraordinary athlete, and a genuinely kind, wonderful man. Sending love, prayers & compassion to his family. To his entire NBA family as well.”
Former US president Barack Obama sent condolences to the Bryant family from him and wife Michelle.
He tweeted: “Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. 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.”
Among the others on board the doomed helicopter was college baseball coach John Altobelli. His death was confirmed by the Orange Coast College, where he worked.
Drake posted a picture of a jacket emblazoned with Bryant’s image and the words “farewell Mamba,” a reference to the player’s nickname “black mamba”.
The jacket was from Bryant’s retirement in 2016 and the Canadian hip hop artist captioned it: “It can’t be.”