NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday in Southern California, was instrumental in inspiring kids to play basketball in India among other places, said former NBA India official Yannick Colaco.

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter died in the helicopter crash sending shockwaves through the sporting world and beyond. He was 41.

“A true legend of the game, Kobe has been an inspiration to millions of sports fans across the world. He was a great ambassador for the game of basketball and has been instrumental in inspiring kids to play the game across the world, including in India,” Colaco, Co-Founder of FanCode, said.

Colaco worked with NBA India as managing director for six years between 2013-2019.

“The Black Mamba, as he was fondly referred to, will always be remembered for his extraordinary talent and his relentless drive. His passing will leave a big void in the world of sports, but he will forever live on in the hearts of his fans.

“We would like to offer our deepest condolences to Kobe Bryant’s family and friends,” he added.

The Los Angeles Lakers legend was a five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star.

Bryant, 41, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when their Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.

Dozens of firefighters and paramedics battled across steep terrain to reach the flaming wreckage at the crash site but found no survivors, officials said. The National Transportation Safety Board said an 18-strong team of investigators would be sent to California to probe the causes of the crash.

Bryant’s death sent shock waves throughout the world, with basketball stars stunned by the news.  Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan said Bryant was “like a little brother” to him. “Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling,” Jordan said. “We used to talk often and I will miss those conversations very much.”

Tributes to Bryant flooded in from former US presidents, pop stars and athletes from different sports, a sign of how the man known as the “Black Mamba” had transcended basketball. “Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” former US president Barack Obama wrote on Twitter.