The sudden and tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning has stunned the world. Over the course of his 20 years and five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant touched countless lives in unique and personal ways. He was an inspiration both on and off the court.
With broken hearts, the disbelief and emotions of friends and fans poured out on social media. An icon in the sports world, Bryant lived in Newport Beach, California, and had a direct connection to the surfing community. For as dominant and larger than life as he was on the court, was reportedly always intrigued by the feats of surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders.
"No athlete outside of surfing inspired me like Kobe has. He truly was the definition of hard work and dedication," wrote four-time Jaws winner Billy Kemper on Instagram. "Thank you for being the greatest of all time and inspiring every human to live their dreams!"
After catching what he called the wave of his life at Jaws last week, inspired by the spirit of Bryant, Kemper won the Sunset Open this week.
"I only met Kobe briefly a couple of times but I had huge admiration for this guy and have found it tough to find the words to express it the past couple days. Thank you for following your dreams big and small and letting your unadulterated passion for the game reach so many of us in our own little ways," shared Kelly Slater on Instagram.
Bryant had a unique connection with USA Surfing and last year hosted the Olympic training team at his Mamba Sports Academy facility.
"Last year I was fortunate to meet and listen to one of the greats," recalled Courtney Conlogue. "Thank you for all that you've inspired not only as an athlete but as an individual."
Below are some poignant Instagram posts dedicated to Bryant and the impact he had in his 41 years with us.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those lost.