The death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant sent shockwaves throughout the sports world and beyond on Sunday. The 41-year-old, along with one of his four daughters, Gianna, were among five people killed in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California, per TMZ. The group was headed to basketball practice at the Mamba Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks when the aircraft went down.
Among those reflecting on the impact of the Los Angeles Lakers star was former United States President Barack Obama, who posted a heartfelt message to his official Twitter account.
“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” wrote Obama. “To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”
The 44th U.S. President has a noted affinity for the sport of basketball, the NBA, and many of its stars, including Bryant. Obama’s successor, President Donald Trump also took to his Twitter account to weigh in on the tragic accident, calling it “terrible news.”
Bryant Reflected on Obama’s Sports Legacy in 2017
Back in June 2017, Bryant spoke to Politico.com about what he missed the most from Obama’s time in office.
“Obama didn’t inspire someone like Colin Kaepernick [former San Francisco 49ers quarterback],” Bryant said. “But he did help athletes progress beyond just asking questions or just being angry, and asking why something is the way it is. Like what’s the constitutional reason behind something and what can be changed.
“He made locker rooms more politically aware,” Bryant continued. “Conversations changed. Obviously, now with the violence we’re seeing across the country, that’s something athletes are understanding more and more. He was rare. We all miss him to a certain extent.”
The two American icons have previously spent time around one another, including a visit to The White House following the Los Angeles Lakers’ last championship title in 2010. During his final White House correspondents’ dinner in May 2016, Obama made reference to Bryant and his infamous ‘Black Mamba’ nickname. The former Commander-in-Chief concluded his address by saying “Obama out!” before dropping the mic and walking off stage.
The gesture, which mimicked Bryant’s “Mamba out” goodbye to Lakers fans on the Staples Center court following his final game in 2016, came much to the delight of the NBA star, who later reacted on Twitter with the hastags #ObamaOut and #MambaOut.
Bryant leaves behind his wife, Vanessa, and their three surviving daughters.
For more NFL updates, follow Chris Licata on Twitter: @Chris__Licata