“I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling,” the Charlotte Hornets owner, 56, said in a statement to Us Weekly. “I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much.”
Jordan remembered Bryant, who was 41, as “a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.” He also called the late basketball legend “an amazing dad who loved his family deeply — and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball.”
The former Chicago Bulls player ended his statement by saying that he and his wife, Yvette Prieto, send their “deepest condolences to [Kobe’s wife] Vanessa, the Lakers organization and basketball fans around the world.”
Kobe long considered Jordan to be his idol on the court. While they faced off in several NBA games over the years, they never played on the same team.
The former Los Angeles Lakers player and his daughter Gianna were among the nine people who were killed in the accident in L.A.’s Calabasas neighborhood on Sunday morning. They were reportedly en route to his Mamba Sports Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks when the crash happened.
“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna,” league 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.”
Kobe also shared daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months, with his wife, Vanessa, whom he married in April 2001.
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