23:44 GMT26 February 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The 62nd Grammy Awards began with a moving tribute to the late basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who along with his daughter, Gianna Maria-Onore, and seven others, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday.

    "This is for Kobe", international recording artist Lizzo said, before her performance to kick off the annual awards show.

    The star-studded crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which Alicia Keys termed the "house that Kobe built", was in a visibly sombre mood.

    Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed to reporters on Sunday that the Calabasas helicopter crash led to the death of all nine people on board. The sheriff refused to release the identities of the people killed in the crash.

    Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Calabasas officials have confirmed that the crash claimed the life of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria-Onore.

    The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are currently investigating the cause of the deadly helicopter accident.

    Across the world there has been an outpouring of disbelief and grief following the news of the passing of the NBA legend.

    US President Donald Trump said on Twitter that the accident "is terrible news".

    "Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day", former US president Barack Obama wrote on Twitter.

    Former teammate and one of Bryant's closest friends, Shaquille O'Neal, took to Twitter to express his condolences.

    Russian hockey star Alexander Ovechkin also paid his respects to Bryant on Twitter.

    The Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs in one of the first NBA games following the tragedy, honored Bryant by each deliberately running out the 24-second shot clock in memory of the basketball great's jersey number. Paris Saint-Germain striker Neymar similarly held up the number 24 with his fingers after converting a penalty in Ligue 1 fixture against Lille OSC.

    During his illustrious 20-year career, Bryant was a five-time NBA champion, two-time Olympic champion, the NBA's Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the 2007/08 season, and an 18-time NBA All-Star.

    The two-time NBA Finals MVP was also never far from the entertainment world, maintaining a close relationship with a number of Hollywood stars, and in 2018 won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for 'Dear Basketball'.

    He is survived by his wife Vanessa Laine Bryant, and three daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, an infant.

    NBA, Grammy Awards, Mourning, United States
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