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Kobe Bryant's death leaves NBA players, others in shock

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28th-Jan-2020       
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AP, New York  :
Kobe Bryant authored some of his most memorable moments at Madison Square Garden and made himself a centerpiece of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry. Bryant was remembered for that and so much more Sunday after the five-time NBA champion, his teenage daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash.
Tributes poured in from around the basketball, entertainment and political worlds. Players and teams who competed with and against Bryant struggled their way through the games that were scheduled, unable to summon his intense competitive spirit. "We laughed and joked about the Mamba mentality. We're all going to need it right now," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said through tears before his team played in Orlando.
Madison Square Garden was lit up in the Lakers' gold and purple colors  for the game between the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Nets star Kyrie Irving didn't play, leaving the arena after hearing of Bryant's death.
The 18-time All-Star made his first All-Star appearance at MSG in 1998, a passing of the torch game in which Michael Jordan played for the final time as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Bryant later set the scoring record at the current arena when he scored 61 points in 2009, a mark that was later bettered by Carmelo Anthony.
Bryant played twice against Rivers and the Celtics for the championship, with Boston winning in 2008 and the Lakers taking the 2010 title, when Bryant was the MVP.
"We always liked to reminisce. We would always laugh at our versions of our losses," Rivers said. "You know, when we beat them in 2008, he had his version. And when they beat us in 2010, I had my version, and then we would laugh at how different we looked at the games."
Pau Gasol, a former teammate of Bryant's during those series, tweeted, "Beyond devastated... my big brother... I can't, I just can't believe it."
The Lakers and Celtics already had the NBA's most famous rivalry, but it had been dormant since the heydays of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird before Bryant helped lead its resumption.
Johnson, just days after giving an emotional speech during a memorial service for former NBA Commissioner David Stern, was devastated again after Bryant, 41, and 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among those killed in Southern California.
"As I try to write this post, my mind is racing," Johnson wrote on Twitter. "I'm in disbelief and have been crying all morning over this devastating news that Kobe and his young daughter, Gigi have passed away in a helicopter crash. Cookie and I are heartbroken."
Bryant also helped the U.S. win Olympic titles in 2008 and 2012, after the Americans had been shut out of gold medals in major international basketball competitions since 2000.
"He was in constant pursuit of doing something special and there will never be a greater warrior in our sport," said Mike Krzyzewski, who coached Bryant on those teams after trying to recruit him to Duke.

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