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'Laker fan for life': How rugby paid tribute to the death of NBA and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant

By Online Editors
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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Much like the rest of the world, the sudden passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant has left the rugby fraternity in shock and disbelief.


The 41-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers star died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday (local time) alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people.

Tributes have since poured in from around the globe for Bryant, who established himself as one of the greatest basketball players to ever live after securing five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVP awards, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections and two Olympic gold medals in a 20-year career stretching between 1996 and 2016.

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His accolades made him a revered figure in not just basketball, but the entire world of sport, which has subsequently left many rugby stars reeling in the wake of his death.

Former All Blacks first-five Dan Carter was among the many high-profile rugby players from across the planet who honoured Bryant and his daughter on social media in the hours following the announcement of the helicopter crash.


“Rest in Peace, Kobe and Gianna Bryant,” the Kobe Steelers playmaker posted to his 1.6 million collective followers on Twitter and Instagram.

“Taken far too soon. My thoughts are with the Bryant family at this incredibly difficult time, and the families of the others that passed in that tragic crash. Very sad.”

Carter’s Top League rival, former Wallabies centurion and Suntory Sungoliath playmaker Matt Giteau, also paid his respects to his 194,000 followers on Twitter.


“Such sad news to wake up to.. Kobe Bryant and his daughter dead,” Giteau wrote in one tweet.

“Life is just way too precious & can’t be taken for granted. Appreciate the ones we do have around & the blessings we do have.. This is just so so sad.”

The 37-year-old followed that up with another post that was later re-tweeted by current All Blacks star Beauden Barrett, which read: “No point constantly planning for a future. We need to just live it now & enjoy what we really have. Awful way to regain perspective sometimes. This is just so sad”.

New Toronto Wolfpack signing Sonny Bill Williams took to Instagram to commemorate Bryant’s life, posting an image of Kobe and Gianna captioned: “Hold on to your close ones. Tell them you love them. Tell them you forgive them. Remind them how important they are to you. Life’s precious and so is love.”

The cross-code convert’s former All Blacks teammates TJ Perenara and Lima Sopoaga both shared the same image as each other as they explained how Bryant sparked their passions for basketball and the Lakers.

“From making me fall in love with the game of Basketball to teaching me to fall in love with the relentless pursuit of mastering ones craft. You are and will always be an inspiration,” wrote Hurricanes co-captain Perenara.

Wasps pivot Sopoaga, meanwhile, simply wrote: “I became a Laker fan for life because of you”.

World Cup-winning Springboks playmaker Elton Jantjies added to the flow of tributes, posting a photo of Bryant, whose nickname was Black Mamba, to Twitter captioned: “G – RIP MAMBA #LEGENDARY”.

In France, Irish speedster Simon Zebo was joined by Racing 92 teammate Teddy Thomas in acknowledging the life of Bryant.

“RIP G.O.A.T,” Zebo wrote in an Instagram post which features a young Bryant donning the iconic No. 8 jersey he wore in the early stages of his career.

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RIP G.O.A.T ? #kobe

A post shared by Z (@simonzebo) on

French international Thomas uploaded a pair of photos – one of Bryant after he helped the Lakers claim the 2001 NBA title, and another of the star with Gianna – captioned: “THE REAL MAMBA #24”.

The hashtag of the number 24 is a nod to the equally iconic No. 24 jersey that Bryant wore in the second half of his career.

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A post shared by Teddy Thomas (@teddythoms) on

Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and three daughters – the youngest of whom was born last June.

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