NBA

Kobe Bryant dead: 'You will always be loved' - Mavs great Nowitzki

By Sports Desk January 27, 2020

Dirk Nowitzki paid a heartfelt tribute to his one-time NBA Finals rival Kobe Bryant following the Los Angeles Lakers legend's sudden death.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed when a helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

The five-time NBA champion spent 20 seasons with the Lakers, a record for longevity with a single team that stood until Nowitzki entered his 21st campaign with the Dallas Mavericks in 2018-19.

Nowitzki, now retired, memorably led Dallas to a series sweep of Bryant's Lakers in the 2011 playoffs, en route to the franchise's sole championship.

The Mavs announced they would retire the number 24 jersey Bryant wore during the second half of his career and their favourite son shared his sorrow in a social media post.

"This is hitting me really hard," Nowitzki wrote in a statement addressed to 'Mamba'.

"I will always remember coming home after games so I could watch you dominate the in the fourth quarter! You inspired so many around the world, including me.

"You will always be missed. You will always be remembered. You will always be loved. Rest in peace with your angel Gigi.

"Deepest sympathies to Vanessa, the girls and all the friends and families of the lives lost today!"

German forward and 2007 MVP Nowitzki was drafted two years after Bryant and the pair went on to play a combined 2,868 regular season games.

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