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Kobe Bryant dead: Nadal and ATP stars mourn passing of Lakers legend

By Sacha Pisani At Melbourne Park
Kobe Bryant

Melbourne, January 27: Rafael Nadal led tributes from the ATP Tour following the tragic death of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died following a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday (January 26), NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed.

Five-time NBA champion Bryant transcended basketball after his selection in the 1996 draft, going on to spend his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, where he claimed two Finals MVPs to go with his 2008 Most Valuable Player honour.

As the sporting world mourns his death, 19-time grand slam champion and world number one Rafael Nadal tweeted: "I woke up this morning with the horrible news of the tragic death of one of the greatest sportsman in the world. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and other passengers. My condolences to his wife and families. I am in shock."

Rod Laver - one of the greatest tennis players of all time with 11 major titles - wrote: "Terribly sad to wake up to this news today. RIP Kobe Bryant. Too young. Deepest condolences to family and friends of the sporting legend."

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic had only spoken about Bryant - who attended last year's US Open - and his impact last week.

Prior to Sunday's fourth-round win over Diego Schwartzman at Melbourne Park, 16-time slam champion Djokovic provided an insight into Bryant following a difficult spell in 2018, which saw the Serbian star drop out of the top 20 due to an elbow injury.

"Kobe has been one of my mentors," Djokovic told ESPN. "I've had several phone conversations with him and also of course when we see each other live in the past couple of years.

"When I was going through the injury with my elbow and struggling to mentally and emotionally handle all of these different things that were happening to me and dropping in the rankings and then having to work my way up, he was one of the people who was really there for me to give me some very valuable advice and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I'll be back.

"I'm very grateful to him for being there for me, for being very supportive. I love Kobe, who doesn't? He's an amazing guy and one of the best basketball players and athletes of all-time."

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Story first published: Monday, January 27, 2020, 7:30 [IST]
Other articles published on Jan 27, 2020
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