“We stand in disbelief and shock at the horribly sad news of the tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna,” The Cleveland Cavaliers expressed in a statement shortly after receiving confirmation from the league about Bryant’s death. “Emotions and sentiments are very heavy for all of us and we extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Vanessa and family. As one of the greatest to ever take the court, Kobe also had a very special, inspiring, iconic, global presence with the game of basketball and we will be forever grateful for his impact and miss him greatly.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department responded to reports of a helicopter that crashed into a hillside above Calabasas, Calif. and caught fire, NBC Los Angeles reported. In a news conference Sunday evening, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said authorities believed nine people were killed in the crash, including the pilot. Nobody on the ground, in a remote field off Las Virgenes Road, was hurt.
Bryant, who played his entire 20-year career for the Los Angeles Lakers and won five NBA championships, retired in 2016 as the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer with 33,643 points — a mark that former Cavaliers star LeBron James passed late Saturday night in Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia.
Despite the tragedy, NBA games went on as scheduled Sunday. Prior to the Nuggets-Rockets matchup in Denver, a moment of silence was observed. In San Antonio, the Raptors won the opening tip then took a 24-second shot clock violation. The Spurs did the same.
The Cavs were about to board the team plane to Detroit when news first broke on social media. Many were stunned, left hoping — and praying — that it wasn’t true, that reports were somehow inaccurate. Larry Nance Jr., who played with Bryant in Los Angeles for a brief period, changed his Twitter avatar and sent out an Instagram post from his final on-court moment with Bryant.
Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Cedi Osman also paid tribute to Bryant.
The league is expected to drive the process in which teams honor Bryant in the coming days. As of Sunday night, the Cavaliers organization only received notification of what transpired.
“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “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. 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 organization and the entire sports world.”