Basketball world mourns passing of Kobe Bryant

The basketball world is in mourning today following the news that five time NBA champion Kobe Bryant has died at the age of 41.

The former Los Angeles Lakers guard was onboard a helicopter that crashed into a hillside on the outskirts of LA, killing Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others.

The tragedy came shortly after the death of former Great Britain legend and NBA player Robert Archibald, who died suddenly on Friday, sparking an outpouring of emotion from friends, fans and former teammates.

Messages for Bryant have flooded in from across the globe, with a number of UK players past and present sending out tributes to double Olympic gold medallist.

"Kobe was a legend who has passed too soon, but his legacy will live on forever," said Basketball England's Technical and Talent Performance Manager Steve Bucknall, who played for the Lakers from 1989-1990.

"What I remember about him was his meticulous approach to training and the development of his career.

"Kobe was notorious for going the extra mile, whether it was being the first to training and last player to leave or the thousands of hours he spent studying the greats like Micheal Jordan.

"He was a special talent and workaholic. Our prayers go out to his family and friends."

Great Britain's most capped men's player Eric Boateng worked with Bryant during 2013 pre-season in LA and was moved to hear of the passing of a player that inspired so many in the game.

"When I was growing up, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were the first players that I had on a poster on my wall when I started to play basketball," he said.

"Just to work alongside him was incredible. He was a leader. The principles and the mentality that he applied to the sport transcend beyond just basketball. I think he gave players a real understand of what work ethic is, what dedication is, what focus is.

"His work ethic was frightening, and he gave me a real idea of what it meant to be great and the effort it took to be great," added the 2012 Olympian.

Most of all, Boateng will remember a player who he was thankful to meet and learn from: "For me, it was a time that I was able to work alongside someone that I never dreamt I would be able to cross paths with.

"It was amazing, and I'm thankful for the leader that he was, and the inspiration that he showed."

Other tributes came in from some of the sport's greats, including former team mates Shaquille O'Neal and Pau Gasol:

Main image credit - Garrett Ellwood