(ATR) The sudden death of basketball giant Kobe Bryant is mourned worldwide. The former NBA Laker and two-time Olympic gold medalist dominates the home page of FIBA.com, website of the international federation for basketball.
Bryant, 41, died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles January 26. His 13-year-old daughter Gianna is one of the nine people who died in the crash. The group was headed to a youth basketball game. Bryant coached the team that included his daughter.
Bryant was a member of the US team that won gold at Beijing in 2008 with an encore performance at London in 2012.
Mike Krzyzewski was Bryant's head coach for both of those gold medal runs.
"We have tragically lost one of the greatest sports figures of our time with the passing of Kobe Bryant. He was an incredibly gifted person who was universally respected. He was in constant pursuit of doing something special and there will never be a greater warrior in our sport," said Krzyzewski.
"I will always remember how much he cherished representing his country in a first-class manner playing the game he so loved. The game of basketball is better today because of Kobe, and he deserves eternal appreciation for that."
"Kobe was an outstanding and true Olympic champion," said IOC President Thomas Bach. "He embraced the power of sport to change people’s lives. After retiring from the game he loved so much, he continued to support the Olympic Movement and was an inspiration for the Olympic Games LA 2028. We will all miss his energy and his humble nature. Our thoughts are with his family and friends and those of all the other victims."
In 2019, Bryant was the global ambassador for the FIBA World Tournament in China. He championed women's sports and women's basketball in particular. A few days before his death, he told CNN that he believed women should be allowed to compete in the NBA one day and that there were female stars who could make the jump right now.
"Women’s sports has lost one of their strongest advocates," USA Basketball said in a statement. "Professional sports has lost a true legend who used his stature to make a difference in the world. Kobe viewed our women’s athletes as role models for his daughter Gigi, for whom we are also grieving."
The Italian Basketball Federation announced on Monday that a minute of silence in honor of Bryant would be held at every game at every level of the sport for the next week.
The federation said it was "A small but heartfelt and dutiful gesture to honor the life and memory of Kobe Bryant, absolute champion who has always had Italy in his heart."
Bryant, who spoke fluent Italian, lived in Italy from age six to 13 while his father Joe Bryant played professional basketball there.
Bryant retired from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016 after 20 years with the team. He was named an All-Star 18 seasons in a row along with five NBA titles. He is fourth on the list of all time scoring in the NBA.
In June 2017 Bryant joined the athletes advisory Council for what was then the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Bryant also joined the board of directors of the bid at that time. In September that year the IOC designated Los Angeles as the host for 2028 with Paris assigned 2024. Bryant has remained a member of the board, one of more than 100 community leaders who serve in a voluntary capacity.
"I want to bring my experience playing in L.A. and as an Olympian to help guarantee an elite experience for athletes in this city in 2024," Bryant was quoted in a Los Angeles Times article from June 2017.
LA2028 chair Casey Wasserman says Bryant will remain an inspiration for Los Angeles.
"My thoughts and prayers are with Kobe’s family during this tragic time. We have lost a sports legend, an LA icon, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist and supporter of our Games. Kobe will forever be an inspiration for our city, athletes and the world of sport. While his family grieves for a father, a husband, and a remarkable daughter, we are joined together in mourning and honoring his life," says a statement from Wasserman to Around the Rings.
Reported by Ed Hula.