LOS ANGELES - Former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin "Magic" Johnson shared an emotional tribute to fellow NBA legend Kobe Bryant after news of his death on Sunday.
Bryant, 41, was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, located about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, along with eight others. His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was among those killed in the crash.
Los Angeles officials said the chopper plunged into a hillside at about 9:45 a.m., scattering debris over an area the size of a football field. The helicopter was headed to Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks, which was holding a basketball tournament on Sunday.
"As I try to write this post, my mind is racing," Johnson wrote in a series of tweets. "I’m in disbelief and have been crying all morning over this devastating news that Kobe and his young daughter, Gigi have passed away in a helicopter crash. Cookie and I are heartbroken."
Bryant was an 18-time All-Star who won five NBA championships and spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers. Johnson played point guard for the Lakers for 13 seasons and later served as president of basketball operations for the NBA team.
A file image dated Feb. 7, 1998 shows Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant attending the inaugural Nestle Crunch All-Star 2-ball competition which was held as part of the 1998 All-Star Weekend in New York. (Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
“I love him, his family and what he stood for on the court and off the court,” Johnson continued. “My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone. It’s hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players.”
Johnson went on in another tweet to acknowledge Bryant’s impact on the game of basketball.
“He gave his knowledge, time, and talent to tutor so many at the youth level, collegiate level, & NBA & WNBA players,” Johnson wrote. “I know basketball fans all over the world will miss him, especially the City of Los Angeles."
“He was such an icon but also did so much for LA. He was passionate about serving the homeless and was an advocate for women's basketball. Coaching his daughter’s basketball team brought him so much happiness,” Johnson tweeted.
Johnson said he would miss the special conversations the two shared “about life and basketball.”
“Laker Nation, the game of basketball & our city, will never be the same without Kobe. Cookie & I are praying for Vanessa, his beautiful daughters Natalia, Bianka & Capri, as well as his parents Joe & Pam & his sisters. We will always be here for the Bryant family."
“We love you forever. #8 #24,” Johnson concluded.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.