Former Wildcats react to tragic death of Kobe Bryant


Former Kentucky basketball player Enes Kanter tweets a picture of himself and Kobe Bryant after learning of Bryant’s death. 

Kernel sports staff

The world is in shock after the news of the tragic death of retired NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. 

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that 41-year-old Bryant and his daughter were on their way to a travel basketball game when their helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California on Sunday afternoon. In a press conference, officials said there were nine people aboard the helicopter. They did not reveal or confirm the identity of any of the deceased.  

Bryant was an 18-time All Star, won five NBA titles as a Los Angeles Laker and two Olympic gold medals playing for the United States. He was a two-time NBA Finals MVP and won the regular-season MVP award in 2008. 

The sports world, including many former Kentucky players who are now in the NBA, expressed their grief on Twitter. 

Malik Monk also mourned the loss of the NBA legend on Twitter. 

The Toronto Raptors and the San Antonio Spurs each ran out the 24-second shot clock on their first possession of their game in honor of Bryant. Former Kentucky players Trey Lyles and Keldon Johnson both play for the Spurs.  

This kick-started a number of similar tributes across the NBA, some involving other teams with former Wildcats.

Bryant transcended sports, and his loss has been felt by many outside of basketball. Former Kentucky football player Za’Darius Smith and some of his NFC Pro Bowl teammates made a tribute to Bryant following a sack in the exhibition. 

Tributes and posts continued throughout Monday. Current Laker and former Wildcat Anthony Davis shared his memories of the star on Instagram:

The Minnesota Timberwolves, who former Kentucky player Karl-Anthony Towns plays for, took an eight-second violation in honor of Bryant. The ball was placed at the free throw line where Bryant passed his idol, Michael Jordan, for then-third place on the NBA all-time scoring list. Former Wildcat De’Aaron Fox followed by holding the ball for a Sacramento Kings shot clock violation. 

The NBA has postponed the Clippers-Lakers game scheduled for Tuesday night. No make-up date has been announced. 

The next game for the purple and gold in the Staples Center is Friday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. It can be seen on ESPN and the ESPN app. Tip is set for 10:30 p.m. ET.