Bryant hailed as ‘true Olympic champion’ by IOC president

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KOBE BRYANT

FILE – In this Jan. 19, 1996, file photo Kobe Bryant dunks the ball at his Lower Merion, Pa., high school gym during a practice. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy, File)

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Kobe Bryant was “an outstanding and true Olympic champion,” IOC President Thomas Bach said Monday.

The basketball great, who was killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday, helped the United States win Olympic gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2012 London Games.

Bryant also worked with the Olympic hosting bid for Los Angeles, the city where he won five NBA titles with the Lakers. When Los Angeles hosts the 2028 Olympics, men’s basketball will be played at the Staples Center, where Bryant played with the Lakers.

“He embraced the power of sport to change people’s lives,” Bach said in a statement published by the International Olympic Committee. “After retiring from the game he loved so much, he continued to support the Olympic Movement and was an inspiration for the Olympic Games LA 2028.”

Bryant narrated the final filmed segment of the L.A. bid team’s presentation in July 2017. He was a member of the bid’s board of directors.

“There are so many different cultures represented here, so many different ethnicities represented here,” he said of Los Angeles in the video. “It’s an opportunity to learn no matter where you look.”

The 41-year-old Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people who died in the crash in Calabasas in foggy weather conditions Sunday morning.

“We will all miss his energy and his humble nature,” Bach said. “Our thoughts are with his family and friends and all the other victims.”

International basketball federation secretary general Andreas Zagklis described Bryant as a “sun in the basketball universe, shining on and off the court.”

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