Bryant died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, along with eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. He was 41 years old and a father of four, leaving behind his wife, Vanessa.
Barack Obama called the basketball star a “legend on the court” as he and wife Michelle sent their “love and prayers” to the family of Bryant and his daughter.
“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” the former president tweeted.
“To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”
Alongside Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant helped the Lakers win three NBA championships in a row between 2000 and 2002.
It is a feat that has not been matched since, with the Golden State Warriors losing in last year’s finals having won two in a row.
O’Neal tweeted: “There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW”.
Fellow NBA great Scottie Pippen said he was “stunned” over Bryant’s death.
“Words can’t even come close to describing it. Just an incredibly sad and tragic day,” he tweeted.
Philadelphia 76er Joel Embiid tweeted: “Man I don’t even know where to start. I started playing ball because of KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched ball before that and that finals was the turning point of my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I’m so FREAKING SAD right now!!!! RIP LEGEND.”
Tennis player Andy Murray’s Instagram story read: “This has hit me hard. Thinking of all his family, friends and colleagues.”
Former England striker Gary Lineker wrote: “Oh no. How awful. One of the greatest sportsmen of our lifetime. Utterly tragic”, while current England forward Raheem Sterling wrote: “Rest easy Legend”.
Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady said: “We miss you already Kobe”, while retired NBA star Dwyane Wade wrote: “Nooooooooooo God please No!”.
Former sprinter Usain Bolt tweeted: “Still can’t believe @kobebryant.”
Actress and television personality Whoopi Goldberg said Bryant was a “hero” to her family in a tribute on Twitter.
“RIP Kobe, hero to many including my grandson, extraordinary athlete and always kind to me and my family. My deepest condolences to his family,” she said.
Actor Idris Elba wrote on Twitter: “Kobe is G. Will always be remembered. A sad day.”
Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles posted a photo of the US gymnastics team with Bryant, saying: “Rest in peace Kobe”.
US politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez paid tribute to Bryant and the other passengers of the helicopter.
She said on Twitter: “Deeply shocked at the news of Kobe Bryant and four others lost today. Sending all my thoughts to their families and loved ones in this devastating moment.”
Singer Justin Bieber posted a photo of himself as a child with Bryant on Instagram.
He said: “It can’t be. You always encouraged me mamba. Gave me me some of the best quotes that we smile about to this day! Love you man!”
Actress Reese Witherspoon said she was “devastated” to hear the news of Bryant’s death.
She said on Twitter: “Just devastated to hear about Kobe Bryant. An extraordinary athlete, and a genuinely kind, wonderful man. Sending love, prayers and compassion to his family.”
“Continuing to move the game forward (at) King James,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet. Much respect my brother.”
Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic.
He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s home town.