The Los Angeles Lakers organization made its first official statement about Kobe Bryant following the star player's sudden death. The NBA team took to Twitter on Wednesday night to pay tribute to Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and the seven other people who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California Sunday morning.
"We are devastated and have been forever changed by the sudden loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. We send our love to Vanessa, the Bryant family, and to the families of the other passengers," the Lakers' statement began.
"Words cannot express what Kobe means to the Los Angeles Lakers, our fans, and our city. More than a basketball player, he was a beloved father, husband, and teammate. Their love and light will remain in our hearts forever."
"The Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to support the families affected by this tragedy. To help, please visit MambaOnThree.org. For those who are inspired to continue Kobe and Gianna's legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org."
The Lakers concluded its tribute by sharing a photo of Bryant and Gianna sitting arm-in-arm courtside at a recent Lakers game. They pinned that tweet to the top of their feed, where it will likely remain for the foreseeable future.
The statement was the first from the Lakers in the wake of Bryant's death aside from a short announcement that the team would be rescheduling Tuesday's home game against the Los Angeles Clippers. At that time, the organization thanked "all of you for the tremendous outpouring of support and condolences" and offered continued support for the Bryant family.
Wednesday night's statement came a few hours after Bryant's wife and Gianna's mother, Vanessa Bryant, broke her own silence following the tragedy that tore her family apart. Sharing a sweet family photo of herself, Bryant and all four of their daughters — Natalia, 17, the late Gianna, 13, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months — Vanessa penned a lengthy message describing her, Natalia, Bianka and Capri's unimaginable pain.
"My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who've shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them," Vanessa began. "We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri."
She said they were also "devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately."
"There aren't enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved."
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She wrote that she and her daughters are focused on keeping Kobe and Gianna's memories alive. "We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon," Vanessa wrote. "I'm not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it's impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that's to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever."
She asked fans to donate to MambaOnThree.org in order to donate to the families of the other victims of Sunday's crash. She added that those who wish to support Kobe and Gianna's legacy can go to MambaSportsFoundation.org.