Following shocking news Sunday that Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna "Gigi" Bryant died in a fiery helicopter crash in California, Boston athletes past and present — from Tom Brady to Bill Russell — were quick to share their heartbreak on social media.
Bryant and the Lakers revived a historical rivalry with the Boston Celtics beginning in 2008, when the two teams — the two winningest franchises in the league — met in the NBA Finals. The Celtics took home the championship that year, but Bryant's Lakers prevailed two years later when the teams again clashed on the biggest stage.
The Celtics released a statement Sunday night saying in part, "There are no words that can convey the heartbreak the entire Celtics organization feels in the wake of the terrible loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. Kobe was one of the greatest talents and competitors to ever play basketball, and his love of the sport inspired countless fans and players around the world."
Boston's statement went on to say, "Our fans were fortunate to watch him as he contributed many memorable chapters to the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, which he treasured."
Russell, a Celtics legend, said in a tweet he was "absolutely shocked" and said of Bryant, "you were my biggest fan, but I was yours."
Disbelief was the initial reaction from several current and former Celtics, including Paul Pierce and Marcus Smart, who said in a tweet, "Please God no..."
Jayson Tatum, the rising Celtics star who worked out with Bryant prior to the 2018-19 season, called the Lakers legend his "hero."
Tatum and the Celtics were in New Orleans Sunday night for a game against the Pelicans. Prior to the start of the game, coach Brad Stevens said he was "super sad" to hear the news of Bryant's death. While Stevens called Bryant the "ultimate competitor," Stevens said, "my favorite part has been watching him transition as a dad to a coach, and those types of things, so this is really hard."
The Celtics and Pelicans honored Bryant during their game at the Smoothie King Center with each taking 24-second shot clock violations. Bryant wore the numbers 8 and 24 during his career with the Lakers.
Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and NBC Sports Boston analyst Brian Scalabrine, both part of the Celtics teams that battled Bryant, also expressed their grief. Rivers was visibly emotional in an NBA TV interview, saying he was devastated by the news. The former Celtics head coach struggled to get out words through tears as he talked about how much Bryant meant to him.
Former Celtic great Cedric Maxwell was among those with ties to the Celtics to share his sadness, saying in a tweet in part, "I'm heart broken. Totally heart broken..."
Several current and former Patriots players were among those to share tributes on social media, including Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, who said in part, "What a sad day today. Kobe you are a legend...You will be missed and always remembered as the Hero that you are."
Others with ties to Boston and New England weighed in, as well, with former Sox pitcher Jon Lester saying he is "speechless."
Shaquille O’Neal, who signed a two-year contract with the Celtics before the 2010-11 season, said he was sick over the news about his "brother."
"There's no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy," O'Neal tweeted.
The dynamic NBA duo of O'Neal and Bryant won three championships in eight seasons together on the Lakers.
Bryant retired in 2016 from the NBA after 20 seasons with the Lakers.
He and his wife Vanessa Bryant had four children together, including an infant born in June 2019 and Gigi who died in Sunday's crash.
"We extend our deepest condolences to Kobe’s family, fans, and the entire Lakers organization, as well as all of the victims and families affected by this horrible tragedy," the Celtics shared in its team statement.
Bryant was 41.