NBA great Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among several people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday. Bryant was 41.
The Seattle sports community paid tribute to the former Los Angeles Lakers star and 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame nominee.
“He has been such a big part of this generation’s life in sports and beyond sports,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said in an interview with the NFL Network at the Pro Bowl. “He’s been such an iconic figure to us. We’ve cited Kobe so many times because of who he is and because of the extraordinary nature of his make up and all. When it hit our locker room our guys were crushed. We all were. We didn’t know what to do. Where we going to walk out on the field and play a football game? It didn’t feel like the right thing to do at the time. But we thought if we was going to have a say in it, he would want us to go and play.
“But he’s been an irreplaceable figure. And we’ve cited him so may times. It’s a great, crushing loss.”
Oak View Group co-founder Tim Leiweke was CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, owner of Staples Center, for much of Bryant’s career with the Lakers.
“Kobe was a phenomenal basketball player, and even better person, but he was a proud and loving father most of all,” Leiweke said. “It’s a tough, difficult day. We all lost an icon. Vanessa lost a husband and a daughter. That is devastating. All of our hearts and prayers are with the daughters and Vanessa. God Bless KB!”
Former Sonics great Gary Payton competed against Bryant and was his teammate for one season with the Lakers in 2003. He spoke about the immense sense of loss he felt in an interview on ESPN Sunday.
“It was just so shocking. That was my young fella,” Payton said. “It’s crazy that I can sit here now and am just in shock because that’s my brother. That was my brother.”
When I was with him, that one year in LA, we got really close. I was the one with him all the time. We got to share a lot of stuff when he was going through the stuff he was going through in that time. He opened up to me a lot and talked. We got to be close and find out what his mindset was really about. That’s why he became like a little brother to me. After that, he became real close with my kids. It was just amazing to see what kind of a guy he was.”
Here’s what the Seattle sports world had to say about Bryant.