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Kobe Bryant mourned from Italy to China as tributes pour in from across the world

The Italian Basketball Federation remembered Bryant as “an absolute champion who always had Italy in his heart.”
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Athletes, politicians and sports fans around the world paid tributes Monday to basketball legend Kobe Bryant after his death in a helicopter crash.

He will be mourned for a week in Italy, where he lived between the ages of 6 and 13 while his father played for several Italian basketball teams.

In China, where basketball rivals soccer as the nation’s most popular sport, fans paid their respects on the microblogging website, Weibo, with many comments accompanied by photos of Bryant and his daughter Gianna and the letters R.I.P.

Image: Kobe Bryant's 'Cantine Riunite' youth team in the early 1990's in Reggio Emilia, Italy.
Kobe Bryant's "Cantine Riunite" youth team in the early 1990's in Reggio Emilia, Italy.Davide Giudici

Chinese professional basketball player and former NBA player Yi Jianlian posted on Weibo: "Thank you! Kobe! Hope father and daughter continue to enjoy basketball in heaven! We will always remember you! Rest in peace to the legend."

Even politicians voiced their sorrow, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posting on Twitter, “I was sorry to hear about the tragedy in the USA, a sad day for all sports lovers in the world.”

The helicopter that was carrying Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others crashed into a hillside outside Los Angeles on Sunday morning, killing all on board.

The accident has unleashed an outpouring of grief from admirers all over the world for the basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, retiring in 2016.

Image: Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a shot against Yi Jianlian of the Washington Wizards at Staples Center on Dec. 7, 2010 in Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers attempts a shot against Yi Jianlian of the Washington Wizards at Staples Center on Dec. 7, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.Andrew D. Bernstein / NBAE via Getty Images file

In Europe, France’s sports minister tweeted, “What a shock…I can’t believe it. Kobe Bryant is A GIANT of sport.”

German basketball star Dirk Nowitzki posted an emotional tweet,This is hitting me really hard. I will always remember coming home after games so I could watch you dominate the fourth quarter.”

At the Australian Open's men's quarterfinal Monday, Australian player Nick Kyrgios walked onto the court wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey before his match against Spain's Rafael Nadal. After winning, Nadal put on a Lakers cap and wiped back tears when asked about Bryant during an interview on the court.

"He has been a true inspiration to the world of sport and for a lot of kids," Nadal said. Some spectators in the crowd could be seen wearing Lakers jerseys.

Also from the tennis world, Serbian player Novak Djokovic posted a picture of him with Bryant, saying, “My heart truly mourns over the news today. Kobe was a great mentor and friend to me.”

Famed Jamaican sprinter and eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt posted a single short phrase with a picture of the two athletes meeting: "Still can't believe."

And from the soccer field, Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo shared a tribute to his 82 million followers that was retweeted 96,000 times as of Monday morning: “So sad to hear the heartbreaking news of the deaths of Kobe and his daughter Gianna. Kobe was a true legend and inspiration to so many. Sending my condolences to his family and friends and the families of all who lost their lives in the crash. RIP Legend.”