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"Many of the people who work here at our show have grown up in this city, Kobe was their hero," O'Brien said. "I've been talking to a lot of people on my staff today and they're just devastated. Just listening to the coverage, so much is rightly being said about Kobe's incredible gifts as an athlete and his prowess on the basketball court."

"But what I wanted to do is take a moment here at the top of the show to highlight another aspect of Kobe's talent: he was naturally very funny and charming," he continued.

"He really was, a terrific guest. A superstar does not have to be a great guest, he just was. Whenever he was on our show he was a joy to talk with and he always had the audience in the palm of his hand. That's the guy that I've been thinking about these past 24 hours and it's that memory I would like to share with you tonight."


The tributes to Bryant have poured in from every corner of the country, but especially from those within the basketball community.

Michael Jordan released a statement about the news on Sunday:

"I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing. 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 organization and basketball fans around the world."

Shaquille O'Neil, who played with Kobe on the Lakers and won three NBA titles with him, shared his thoughts on Twitter:

"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"

"Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me'Arah."

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