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BBA pays tribute to legend Bryant

Kobe Bryant, the 18-times 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 last weekend. He was 41.(File photograph by Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Rickey Watts, the Bermuda Basketball Association president, paid tribute to late NBA legend Kobe Bryant yesterday.The Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard was killed in a helicopter crash along with his teenaged daughter, Gianna, and seven others in Southern California last weekend. “Kobe Bryant was something special and we lost a great player but also a great human being,” Watts, the former Chicago Bears wide receiver, said. “He is going to be missed because he is basketball. He carried himself in such a professional manner that everybody, and a lot of children even right now up to this time, emulate him. “They try and shoot like him, try to have that swag like him and so it’s all a part of the game and he’s the game of basketball.“Everybody knows what it takes to get to that level and what it takes to maintain at that level. He was just awesome.”Byrant won five NBA titles and numerous individual awards during a glorious 20-year career with the Lakers. He also won two gold medals with the United States team at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and London 2012.Watts, 62, said he initially did not believe the news of Bryant’s death was true.“I was really in shock and didn’t believe it at first,” he added. “I got a text from one of the presidents of the Caribbean Basketball Conference and I was like, ‘That can’t be true’ because there was nothing on the news reels at that point in time. Then, about an hour or so later, it actually came out to be true and I was really sad. I feel for his family and everyone associated with basketball because Kobe Bryant was a beast.“A lot of our administrative membership called and they were just sad and didn’t even know what to say. We didn’t want to really think about it, but we did.“Kobe’s death was just too early and that really hurts. You just think that a young man who did as much as he did would be around for a long time. It was too soon and no different than a Walter Payton [the late Chicago Bears running back and team-mate of Watts] passing during his time as an NFL athlete.“He was very much in the community of Los Angeles. Everybody knew his name.”Bryant entered the NBA directly from high school.He was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the thirteenth overall pick at the 1996 NBA draft and then traded to the Lakers.“I remember looking at some video clips and it might have even been before YouTube was popular,” Watts added. “I remember looking at a few clips of this guy just saying, ‘Wow, I see why they took him out of high school’. Man, did he turn out to be an outstanding professional player and, much more than that, a better person.”