Tribute paid to basketball legend Kobe Bryant

James Kon

The sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant has prompted an outpouring of tributes from sports fans all over the world.

One of those who paid tribute was local superstar Wu Chun, who played three charity games with Bryant in China in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

“I will never forget those memories of him. … his modesty, his smile, his seriousness and hard work, his love for his family, his friendliness towards the Chinese people, his words, ‘Hey, it’s good to see you again!’” read Wu Chun’s heartfelt message on Weibo.

He also described the basketball icon as a “super, down-to-earth person; very genuine and charismatic”.

Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, were among the nine people killed yesterday, when a helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California.

The former LA Lakers player, who retired in 2016, won five NBA championships and had two Olympic gold medals for men’s basketball.

The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others that crashed into a rugged hillside outside Los Angeles was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers.

The helicopter plunged into a steep hillside at about 9.45am on Sunday with an impact that scattered debris over an area the size of a football field and killed all aboard. The accident unleashed an outpouring of grief from admirers around the world who mourned the sudden loss of the all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Thousands of fans, many wearing Bryant jerseys and chanting his name, gathered outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, home of the Lakers and site of Sunday’s Grammy Awards where Bryant was honoured.

The cause of the crash was unknown, but conditions at the time were such that the Los Angeles Police Department and the county sheriff’s department grounded their helicopters.

The Los Angeles County medical examiner, Dr Jonathan Lucas, said the rugged terrain complicated efforts to recover the remains. He estimated it would take at least a couple of days to complete that task before identifications can be made.

File photo shows Wu Chun with NBA legend Kobe Bryant during a charity game