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27.01.2020 Europe

Presidents lead tributes to Kobe Bryant

By Paul Myers - RFI
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
LISTEN JAN 27, 2020
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Presidents past and present led the tributes to the former basketball player Kobe Bryant who died on Sunday in a helicopter crash just outside Los Angeles.

The 41-year-old was with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people who were killed when their a Sikorsky S-76B came down in fog in Calabasas.

"Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act," Barack Obama tweeted.

Donald Trump said the crash was terrible news.
"Laker Nation, the game of basketball & our city, will never be the same without Kobe," former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson tweeted. The American football star Tom Brady wrote: "We miss you already Kobe."

During a 20 year career with the LA Lakers, Bryant won five NBA titles and was, until recently surpassed by Lebron James, the third highest points scorer in NBA history.

He also won Olympic gold medals with the US basketball team in 2008 in Beijing and four years later in London.

After retiring from basketball, Bryant devoted himself to charity foundations.

In Italy, where Bryant lived between the age of six and 13 while his father played for several teams, the basketball federation said on Monday that a minute's silence in honour of Bryant would be observed before games before each age category.

Giovanni Petrucci, the federation's president said: "Kobe has been and will always be linked to Italy.

"It's a small but heartfelt and deserved gesture to honour the life and memory of Kobe Bryant, an absolute champion who always had Italy in his heart," Petrucci said.

Kobe Bryant's former team, NPC Rieti, posted a photograph of the fledgling starĀ  along with the tribute: "You made us dream, feel and above all fall in love. It was in Rieti that you first started to make your little opponents cry. We're proud to have been the first to see you tread the courts. We'll never forget you, Kobe."

Bryant often described Reggio Emilia as a special place where his character was forged

"Forever one of us," local basketball team Pallacanestro Reggiana posted, alongside pictures of him as part of its youth team.

"Kobe Bryant grew up here and he was a Reggiano for all of us," the mayor of Reggio Emilia, Luca Vecchi wrote on Facebook. "He left us today. A basketball legend that our whole city will remember forever with affection and gratitude. Ciao Kobe."

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