Basketball

Sporting fraternity remember Kobe Bryant the legend

Kobe Bryant's laser-like focus and sublime skills were remembered by NBA colleagues, fans and athletes he inspired as they absorbed the shock of his death at the age of 41 on Sunday.

Bryant, a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and two-time Olympic gold medallist, died in a fiery helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.

"We laughed and joked about the Mamba mentality. We're all going to need it right now," an emotional Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before his team played the Orlando Magic yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, was washed in the Lakers colours of purple and gold, and so were the pylons that mark the entrance to Los Angeles International Airport.

In San Antonio, the Spurs and Toronto Raptors both committed 24-second shot-clock violations on their opening possessions in honour of Bryant - who wore No. 24 in the later stages of his career.

Six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan said Bryant would be remembered as one of the game's greatest.

"Words can't describe the pain I'm feeling," Jordan said.

"I loved Kobe - he was like a little brother to me."

That sentiment was echoed by Shaquille O'Neal - who won three NBA titles and also famously feuded with Bryant in Los Angeles.

The grief was felt beyond the basketball court.

"The world lost a legend today, but the impact and legacy he leaves behind will last forever," Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao tweeted.

Brazilian footballer Neymar dedicated his second goal in Paris Saint-German's 2-0 victory at Lille to Bryant, while Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo also paid tribute.

Golf superstar Tiger Woods, whose professional career started the same year as Bryant's, was taking part in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in Southern California, when news began to spread that Bryant had died.

Woods' caddie Joey LaCava managed to keep the news from him until after the final round.

Woods, a diehard Lakers fan, said: "Joey realised that I was locked in on (winning the tournament) and didn't want to distract me with that type of news.

"People were yelling, 'Do it for Mamba'. Now I understand...

"(Kobe) came in the league and I turned pro more or less the same time. We had our 20-year run together. It's unbelievable, that he's no longer here." - AFP

Basketball