The world lost a true legend on Sunday, January 26. After news broke of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash death, celebrities and fans took to social media to voice their heartbreak. Many stars had known the NBA icon for years, while others were inspired by him from afar.
Jennifer Lopez shared a touching Instagram tribute, including photos of her with the late basketball star, 41, and his family. “As I scrolled through Kobe’s feed, and Alex and I talk memories and moments we remember about him ... this is the truth that rings out the loudest ... family is what matters most,” the singer captioned the post. “We are all feeling sadness from this loss, but all I can think of is that it is a grain of sand compared to what Vanessa must going through right now.”
As RadarOnline.com readers know, Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “GiGi” Bryant, also died in the crash. The two were traveling — along with six other passengers — to Kobe’s Mamba Academy for a practice game around 9:40 a.m. on Sunday when the flying conditions turned dangerous due to the weather, and the pilot accidentally crashed the helicopter into a mountain in Calabasas. All nine people died at the scene.
Radar obtained the troubling flight tower audio before the fatal collision. In it, Ara Zobayan, the helicopter pilot, is heard discussing safe landing options with the air traffic control tower employees. It’s unclear if the foggy conditions were behind the crash.
Vanessa Hudgens, a known Lakers fan, shared three different Instagram posts about Kobe’s death. “Fuccccc***. I’m. So. Sad. I’m devastated. Cryyyying. Too soon to loose sic such a legend. Sending so much love to vanessa and the kids, she captioned a shot of the NBA star.
Readers know Kobe spent his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. On Sunday, pro basketball players across America honored the legend on the court. Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young broke down in tears before his team's game against the Washington Wizards. The New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets waited out the 24-second clock in honor of Kobe in the opening two sequences of their game at Madison Square Garden. The Toronto Raptors and the San Antonio Spurs did the same. Various other players and teams made their own tributes.
Kobe was number 24 for the Lakers. In his honor, the Dallas Mavericks retired the number 24.
Lamar Odom, a longtime friend of Kobe, couldn’t contain his emotion when reacting to his death on Instagram. “These picture are just the tip of the iceberg of our relationship. He taught me so many things in life that were necessary on and off the court. On the court he taught me how to carve out defenses and how to take my time. How to make winning my ultimate goal. Off the court he taught me to sign my own checks lol. Of course anyone who knows my story knows I’ve suffered a lot of loss but the only loss I can compare this to is when I lost my son. Even though our relationship wasn’t father/son, it was more like him being a teacher and me being his brother. I’m glad I got to be the ying to your yang as far as the locker room was concerned. It was my pleasure,” he captioned a series of shots of them together.
“I couldn’t even catch my breath today when I heard this news. I just knew if he was in a helicopter crash he would have been the one to survive. Somehow he would have jumped out and landed on his feet. I’m sitting here thinking about when we would be in practice scrimmaging and you would start the jump ball off with elbowing Sasha in the chest. Like dude it’s 10:30 in the morning lol. You think watching him play was crazy, you gotta think in practice if you scored like 8-9 buckets throughout the practice you had a great practice. I’ve seen him knock off 13-14 in a row in practice!!!! I’m still waiting for the media to come out and say wrong report. No way God took my brother this early. I know I been through my own stuff in life with using drugs and not being good to myself. When I went through that Coma situation if God would have came to me and said we would take me and spare Kobe I would have rather that happened. In honor of my brother I’m up at 4am tomorrow to get to the gym! Gigi gone give you buckets!!!! I love you brother ???? @kobebryant,” he added.
Readers know the Staples Center is where Kobe played many home games for the Lakers.
Ryan Seacrest also mentioned the NBA legend, saying on the Grammys red carpet: “His loss will be felt even more deeply tonight at a place he considered home.”
“It's unthinkable,” he continued. “This is a man and a family that we've gotten to know over the years. We've seen him play here before. He was on the phone with me a few months ago, talking about the love of being a father, talking about his daughters so pridefully, and I think so many artist here tonight will be thinking about this, and wanting to share their stories.”
Kevin Hart couldn’t believe the news. The comedian shared a photo of Kobe on Instagram, writing: “This honestly doesn’t make sense....I just saw you man. This hurts my heart. God please place your hands on his family and help guide them thru this unbearable time. We love you forever man...Legends never die!!!! #MambaMentality #RIP.... RIP to the other passengers as well as sending prayers to their families.”
In another Instagram post, he added, “I have no words...All I have is real tears....This is beyond heartbreaking... #prayingforthebryantfamily #RIPGianna #RIPKobe.”
“Conversations in the Dark” singer, John Legend, was equally stunned. "I'm so sad and stunned right now. In Staples Arena, where Kobe created so many memories for all of us, preparing to pay tribute to another brilliant man we lost too soon, Nipsey Hussle. Life can be so brutal and senseless sometimes. Hold on to your loved ones. We miss you, Kobe,” he tweeted.
His wife, Chrissy Teigen tweeted: “I cannot believe this is real. My god. Oh my god.”
She later added: “Downtown right now and nothing feels more unimportant than what we are doing today. This is absolutely terrible. Everyone is numb.”
Will Smith could not find the words to express his heartache. The Gemini Man actor simply shared a throwback photo of himself and Kobe on Instagram.
His wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, shared a photo of Kobe and daughter GiGi on Instagram. “Life is so fragile. This is the kind of loss that makes you deeply reflective. My prayers to Vanessa, her children and all of those who love Kobe and Gigi,” she wrote. “This is a hard one. My heart is broken and bleeding everywhere today.”
Kanye West returned to Twitter after a long hiatus to honor the basketball icon. “Kobe, We love you brother,” he wrote alongside a throwback picture of himself, Kobe, record producer Swizz Beatz and rapper Mos Def. “We’re praying for your family and appreciate the life you’ve lived and all the inspiration you gave.”
His wife, Kim Kardashian, also spoke out. “I cry just thinking about it,” she captioned a shot of Kobe with daughter GiGi. “My heart is so heavy. No one should ever experience what the families involved are going through. This has affected us all so much but I cannot begin to imagine what Vanessa is feeling losing her husband and her baby girl… . Rest In Peace Legend.”
Her sister Khloé Kardashian also reacted with a tweet. “This can’t be real there’s no way!!! My heart hurts,” she wrote.
Kylie Jenner shared a picture of Kobe embracing GiGi, writing, “At loss for words right now. praying for this beautiful family.”
Kris Jenner wrote, “Devastated by the news of losing our precious Kobe Bryant. Words cannot express our sadness. All my deepest love and prayers are with Vanessa and Kobe’s family at this time,” alongside a photo of the late NBA star.
Former United States President Barack Obama also shared his sadness on Twitter. “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,” he wrote. “Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”
Vanessa Bryant has yet to break her silence on the tragedy.
Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted: “Kobe was truly larger than life, a legend. May he and all those who lost their lives today rest in peace. Love and condolences to his family. LA will never be the same.”
Ellen DeGeneres admitted: “Like everyone, I’m stunned and saddened by the news about Kobe Bryant. My heart is broken for his wife and family.”
The Departed actor Mark Wahlberg shared a sweet photo of Kobe playfully pinching his son's cheek while sitting courtside at a Lakers game. “RIP,” he wrote in the caption.
Rapper Lil Wayne tweeted: “We lost a King. 824.”
Drake shared his heartbreak by posting a photo of a black leather jacket with the words “Farewell Mamba” stitched on the back. He wore the custom jacket in honor of the former Lakers star’s final NBA All-Star game in 2016. “It can't be,” he captioned the post.
In his final years, Kobe worked as a basketball coach for his daughter’s team, the Mamba Lady Mavericks.
Pharrell Williams tweeted: “The world lost a giant today Rest In Peace Kobe Bryant. Also praying for the other passengers that we lost and their families.”
Among those killed in the collision were Orange Coast College basketball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their teen daughter Alyssa. Basketball coach Christina Mauser also died in the brutal crash, as did Payton Chester — Gianna’s teammate — and her mother, Sarah Chester. Ara Zobayan, the helicopter pilot, was the last victim.
“Absolutely heartbreaking. Praying for strength for the entire Bryant family and sending all of you love. Rest In Peace Kobe and Gianna,” Kevin Jonas wrote on Instagram.
Chris Brown shared an Instagram photo of him greeting Kobe at a Lakers game. “DEVASTATED!! RIP❤️KING,” he captioned the shot.
Gigi Hadid shared a lengthy tribute to her Lakers icon on Instagram. In a post featuring a photo of Kobe with daughter Gianna, the model wrote: “This is too much. Rest In Peace and love together, legends. Growing up a Kobe fan brought so much joy to my life, like so many, and we were all so excited to see sweet Gigi play someday. Sending strength and my deepest condolences to Vanessa, the Bryant family, and all the families affected by this tragedy.” Later, in her Instagram Story, Gigi, 24, shared a photo of her as a child, dressed in a Lakers jersey and celebrating her birthday with a Lakers cake. The Los Angeles native also shared various photos of Kobe with his mini-me and of a tweet he sent Gigi in 2016.
Fellow supermodel Kendall Jenner wrote on Instagram: “Sadly, i never personally knew you, but knowing i’m capable of all these emotions for someone i only knew from a far makes me feel more human than ever. You had the magical ability of bringing people together, through sports and through your soul. we feel you so heavily today.”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who recently lost his father, shared a photo of Kobe and his daughter on Instagram, writing: “Love is forever.”
The View host Whoopi Goldberg tweeted: “RIP Kobe, hero to many including my grandson, extraordinary athlete and always kind to me & my family. My deepest condolences to his family.”
Demi Lovato — who broke down in tears during her Grammys performance — shared a photo of her and Kobe on Instagram. She wrote: “This makes me so sad. Kobe you were always so sweet to me. Known you over 10 years.. not super well but we always joked about you coming over and playing that game of horse! You will (be) so missed by so many. You’re a legend with wings now. RIP Kobe.”
Cher shared various tweets about the tragedy, writing, among other things: “It’s SO HARD To Deal With The Death Of a GREAT STAR, Because We Feel As If We Knew Them Personally. Kobe Bryant Was a GREAT ATHLETE,& All Of America Will Feel His Loss. The (World) Has Lost a Bright Light.”
“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,” Reese Witherspoon tweeted.
Godfather of Harlem actor Forest Whitaker tweeted on Monday, January 27: “The world has suffered a great loss with the passing of Kobe Bryant. His passion on and off the court inspired millions of people who watched him soar and defy gravity to reach his goals. I send my love and support to Vanessa and the Bryant family. May they be held in God’s Arms.”
Jimmy Kimmel wrote: “He was great, charismatic & among the hardest-working athletes ever, but what impressed me most was how deeply-involved Kobe was with his 4 daughters. Pray for them, Vanessa, his parents & his fellow passengers' families on this sad and shocking day. We will never forget you Kobe.”
“So far 2020, you suck,” he added.
“Jesus this is heartbreaking,” late-night host Trevor Noah tweeted.
Mariah Carey tweeted: “In shock right now. RIP Kobe.”
Julia Roberts was at a loss for words. The Pretty Woman actress simply added a broken-heart emoji on Instagram.
Justin Bieber shared a throwback photo of him and Kobe to Instagram and wrote: “It can't be. You always encouraged me mamba. Gave me some of the best quotes that we smile about to this day.! Love you man!”
Paula Abdul — who was a cheerleader for the Lakers and later became the choreographer for the famed Laker Girls — expressed her heartbreak on Twitter. “I am completely speechless and devastated at the unexpected passing of my dear friend, @kobebryant,” she wrote. “Kobe had a big heart and an even bigger love for the community of Los Angeles. Through his foundation, he changed the lives of so many people and families with his wife, Vanessa.”
Rapper Meek Mill tweeted: “It’s not no telling what you gone wake up to nowadays.”
“My heart is in pieces hearing the news of this unimaginable tragedy. I can’t fathom what the families are going through,” Taylor Swift wrote on Twitter. “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.”
Kobe and Gianna are survived by Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, 37, and Gianna’s three sisters: Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.