Michael Jordan has released a heartbreaking statement to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant

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The word 'legend' is so often overused, but there is no other way to describe Kobe Bryant. 

The LA Lakers shooting guard was a titan of the game, one of basketball's modern greats and a five-time NBA champion. 

NBA games did go ahead on Sunday night and teams observed a moment of silence as a mark of respect after Bryant's tragic death in a helicopter crash. 

Countless names from around the world of sport have been paying tribute to the 41-year-old and the one and only Michael Jordan has now released a statement via his spokesperson Estee Portnoy. 

"I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing," it reads.

"Words can't describe the pain I'm feeling. I loved Kobe - he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. 

"He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply - and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball. 

"Yvette joins me in sending my deepest condolences to Vanessa, the Lakers organisation and basketball fans around the world."

Ex-Lakers president Magic Johnson said he was "in disbelief" and added that he had been "crying all morning".

"It's hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players," he said. 

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The shocking news has had an impact on millions of fans, with Lakers supporters flocking to pay their respects with jerseys. 

Bryant's impact cannot be underestimated. 

He belonged to that upper echelon of basketball greats and his passing will continue to be mourned. 

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