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Kobe Bryant, 41, died in a helicopter crash on Sunday in Calabasas

By Benjamin VanHoose
January 27, 2020 03:37 PM
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is putting his grief into words following the untimely death of Kobe Bryant.

Shortly after news broke of Bryant’s death at age 41 on Sunday, the 72-year-old fellow Los Angeles Lakers alum shared a thoughtful clip on social media, telling fans about the man he knew firsthand, struggling to initially process the tragedy.

“It’s very difficult for me to put in words how I feel about the loss of Kobe Bryant,” Abdul-Jabbar said in the video while wearing Lakers gear. “… I met him when he was 11- or 12-year-old, I was friends with his dad Joe — we were former adversaries, Joe played for the 76ers, but he was a good friend and someone that I shared a friendship.”

On Sunday morning, Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash that also killed seven other people. Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa, 37, and their other daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.

Sending his condolences to the Bryant family, Abdul-Jabbar — who retired from the NBA in 1989 — called Bryant an “incredible family man,” as well as an “incredible athlete.”

“[He was] and a leader in a lot of ways,” said Abdul-Jabbar. “He inspired a whole generation of young athletes.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant
| Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage; Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic

Later, concluding the message, he said: “Kobe, my thoughts are with you absolutely. Rest in peace, young man. This loss is just hard to comprehend. Go with God.”

“Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players,” wrote Abdul-Jabbar along with the video on Twitter. “But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete.”

Abdul-Jabbar joins other major athletes to speak out while mourning Bryant’s passing, including Derek Jeter, Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan.

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Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant, 2006
| Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty

In his statement (issued on his behalf via a spokesperson on Twitter), Jordan, 56, said he was “in shock.”

“I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing,” began the statement. “Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often and I will miss those conversations very much.”

“He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force,” the statement continued. “Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply — and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball.”

Jordan’s statement concluded, “Yvette joins me in sending my deepest condolences to Vanessa, the Lakers organization, and basketball fans around the world.”