Kobe Bryant remembered as ‘champion on and off the court’ in NJ
New Jersey residents, celebrities, athletes and leaders are remembering basketball great Kobe Bryant following his death in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter were among nine people who died when their helicopter crashed Sunday morning about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Bryant's helicopter plunged into a rugged hillside Sunday with an impact that scattered debris over an area the size of a football field and killed everyone aboard.
Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted that he was shocked and saddened by the death of the lifelong Los Angeles Laker, a Philadelphia native.
"Bryant was a legend on and off the court who forever changed basketball. Our thoughts are with his wife, family and friends, and so many fans," Murphy said.
Devils goalie great Martin Brodeur tweeted that he was "sad to hear of the passing of Kobe Bryant. A champion on and off the court,"
Women's soccer great Carli Lloyd in a tweet said Bryant's death as "truly devastating."
"My heart goes out to all these families and their loved ones. Life is fragile. We all must remind ourselves of this. Hug your loved ones tight and never take a day for granted," Lloyd said.
"He was a role model to everyone across the globe. Sending love and prayers to his family," Old Bridge Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez tweeted.
Bryant became a basketball star as a teen at Lower Merion High School in the Ardmore section of Lower Merion, a Philadelphia suburb. He played on the varsity team as a freshman.
Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific shot-maker with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive drive. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown.
He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion. He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
He went on to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
His Lakers tenure was marred by scandal when in 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He said the two had consensual sex, and prosecutors later dropped the sexual assault charge at the request of the accuser. The woman filed a civil suit against Bryant that was settled out of court.
Among those killed in the crash were John Altobelli, 56, longtime head coach of Southern California's Orange Coast College baseball team; his wife, Keri; and daughter, Alyssa, who played on the same basketball team as Bryant's daughter, said Altobelli's brother, Tony, sports information director at the school.
Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley tweeted that the dead also included Christina Mauser, a girls basketball coach at a nearby elementary school. Her husband, Matt Mauser, said in a Facebook post: “My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report