Barcelona's Leo Messi, Juventus' Christiano Ronaldo, and Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar were among the soccer stars who paid tribute to Kobe Bryant after he died in a helicopter crash that also killed his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Bryant, 41, and his daughter were among nine people who died in the crash near Calabasas, California, on Sunday, per the New York Times.
Neymar, 27, learnt about Bryant’s death at half-time during PSG’s 2-0 win over Lille on Sunday. He put the Ligue 1 giants ahead before the break and paid tribute to Bryant after netting his second, when he symbolised a two and a four to the camera to honour the NBA legend’s No. 24 jersey.
"It's really sad for the world of sport and for all of us. Not only for basketball fans, but for everything he has done for sport. I did that celebration for him, his number, and I hope he'll rest in peace,” he told Canal Plus after the game (via PSG’s official website).
United striker Rashford took to Twitter and called Bryant “a true inspiration in the sporting industry,” while team-mate Pogba posted on Instagram: “Heroes come and go. Legends are for ever. R.i.P. Kobe and his daughter Gianna and all the victims my prayers to the families.”
Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling posted an image of Bryant with the caption “Rest easy legend,” and team-mate Sergio Aguero said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of ‘The Black Mamba’.
Bryant was well-known for being a big soccer fan, having grown up for several years in Italy when his dad, Joe "Jelly Bean" Bryant, was playing professional basketball. He famously attended several training sessions with Barcelona, who tweeted out condolences of the star's passing:
The death of the Lakers legend has truly transcended sports, pervading popular culture and news across the spectrum and beyond basketball and soccer. Two of the greatest in the world of soccer, Leo Messi and Christiano Ronaldo, shared their grief and respects as well.
No matter the sport, no matter the walk of life, Kobe Bryant inspired so many to be their very best, to be tough but fair, and to make an impact both in the game and in the lives of the people around them.