Credit: Maria Tan/AFP via Getty Images

You don’t have to be a basketball fan to know the profound impact Kobe Bryant had on the sport and the athletes coming into it.

Though Bryant retired from his 20-season stint with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016, he remained involved in basketball youth circles and won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball.” Following yesterday’s tragic news of his death in a helicopter crash that claimed the lives of eight other people including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, many athletes have paid homage to Bryant.

Shaquille O’Neal expressed his condolences towards his long-time teammate and friend whom he considered a brother: “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”

Five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady wrote, “We miss you already Kobe.”

Former Los Angeles Laker Rick Fox tweeted, “Kobe and Gianna may your souls and the souls of the others who were with you Rest In Peace. My condolences and prayers go out to Kobe’s wife Vanessa, his daughters and the Bryant Family. I Love You Kobe and will miss you dearly.”

Soccer superstar David Beckham also wrote a heartwarming message that said, “It’s taken me hours to work out what to write and still my words won’t ever be enough to describe how I am feeling after the tragic loss of Kobe. This was one special athlete, husband, father and friend. Having to write these words is hard enough but also knowing we have lost an amazing human being and his beautiful and talented daughter Gianna is heartbreaking. The commitment Kobe showed to his sport was inspiring, to go through the pain and to finish a game off like only he could inspired me to try to be better. Sometimes I would only go to games just to watch that clock go down to the last 2:00 minutes knowing that we were about to witness something special. Kobe always talked about Vanessa and his beautiful girls and how proud he was of them. Kobe’s passion was his family and basketball. He was determined to inspire the next generation of boys and girls to embrace the sport that he loved. His legacy will live on. My family’s love and prayers go out to Vanessa and the girls, to Kobe’s basketball family, and of course to the families of those who were tragically lost with him yesterday…”

Former NBA star Magic Johnson tweeted, “He was such an icon but also did so much for LA. He was passionate about serving the homeless and was an advocate for women’s basketball. Coaching his daughter’s basketball team brought him so much happiness.”

Pistons legend Ben Wallace said, “Kobe put his all into the game he loved and the NBA and world of basketball is better because of him. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bryant family as we mourn the loss of Kobe and his daughter Gianna. There will never be another Mamba. RIP to the GOAT.”

Former Yankees star Alex Rodriguez expressed his shock about Bryant’s passing, writing, “My heart hurts so much right now. I still can’t wrap my head around this. How can it be? I learned so much from Kobe Bryant. He was naturally gifted, but had a passion for basketball like no one else I’ve ever seen. His work ethic was impeccable and his stress on mastering the fundamentals is what elevated him to the player he was. I’ve never met anyone more focused with a myopic approach. He didn’t pursue approval, affirmation or adulation. He pursued excellence and process. He followed my career and would often call to help with my health, daily routine … and would even chime in about hitting techniques. He was a role model to me, and millions around the world.”

Legendary golfer Tiger Woods said, “It’s one of the most shocking, tragic days that I’ve ever been a part of in a very quick span here.”

Dwayne Wade, who retired from the NBA at the end of the 2018-2019 season stated on Instagram yesterday that, “Today is one of the saddest days in my lifetime.”

After surpassing Bryant’s scoring record on Jan. 25, LeBron James spoke of how Bryant was an inspiration to him during his come-up.

In a prophetic final social media post on Twitter, he paid his respects to Los Angeles Laker Lebron James, stating, “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644.”

Bryant was 41 years old and is survived by his wife Vanessa and three children, 17-year-old Natalia, three-year-old Bianka, and seven-month-old Capri.