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John Calipari, former UK players shocked and saddened by death of L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Like thousands of basketball fans, teams and coaches across the nation, John Calipari was speechless after hearing of the death of Kobe Bryant on Sunday.

The Kentucky coach said, “we all are in a state of shock over the news of Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter and those who perished with them. No words work on a day like today; only a prayer.”

“Lord, we all mourn the untimely death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and the others who lost their lives today,” Calipari tweeted. “May you grant eternal rest to them, O Lord; and let your light perpetually shine upon them. Amen.”

In this June 7, 2009, file photo, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) points to a player behind him after making a basket in the closing seconds against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals, in Los Angeles. Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. (AP Photo by Mark J. Terrill, via Kentucky Today)

The former Los Angeles Lakers standout and his teenage daughter Gianna were among nine people who were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning in Calabasas, California.

Bryant went straight from high school to the NBA, where he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 and then later traded to the Lakers, where he spent his 20-year professional career. Bryant helped lead Los Angeles to five NBA titles during his prolific career and was the league’s most valuable player in 2008. In his final game with the Lakers, he scored 60 points in 2016.

During his playing career, Bryant was an 18-time All-Star and two-time MVP during the NBA Finals. He also won two Olympic gold medals during his career.

Several former Kentucky players, including Karl-Anthony Towns were shocked by the news of Bryant’s passing and offered their condolences.

“I’m numb,” Towns said in a tweet.

“I’m trying to process, but I just can’t man,” Jamal Murray, a former Kentucky guard added.

Former Kentucky standout and NBA player, coach and general manager Dan Issel said Bryant “was one of the most talented and competitive players I have ever known.”

“His legacy on the court is winning championships,” he said in a tweet. “(There are) some with a lot of talent and some without so much. Horrible tragedy. RIP Kobe and prayers to your family.”

Former Kentucky Mr. Basketball and Madison Central High School standout and Kentucky guard Dominique Hawkins also offered his condolences.

“The impact that (you) had on my life as a child growing up was huge,” Hawkins said in a tweet. “(I’m) sick to my stomach after hearing (the) news.”

Tyler Herro, a star on last year’s Wildcats and playing well as a rookie for the Miami Heat, offered this tweet: “Every team has to retire 24.”

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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