Michael Jordan described Kobe Bryant as his “little brother” in a tribute to his fellow NBA legend, who died in a helicopter crash on Monday (AEDT).
Bryant, 41, was one of nine people aboard a helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, California. His daughter Gianna, 13, was also on board and died in the accident.
Jordan is almost universally regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time and was a mentor to Bryant. Having won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan recognised the same maniacal will to succeed in Bryant, who went on to win five titles with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling,” Jordan said in a statement.
“I loved Kobe – he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.
“Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball. Yvette joins me in sending my deepest condolences to Vanessa, the Lakers organisation and basketball fans around the world.”