'I knew him and made this celebration for him': Neymar dedicates goal to Kobe Bryant (VIDEO)
Each and every corner of the sports world has been impacted by the unexpected death of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles County early on Sunday local time, with reverberations of the accident being felt as far afield as Ligue 1.Also on rt.com 'Bigger than basketball': NBA stars lead on-court tributes to Kobe Bryant hours after icon's death (VIDEO)
The Brazilian superstar gave his side the lead just before the half hour mark with a 20-yard strike. However, the news broke of Bryant's death during the first half with players learning of the tragedy during the half-time break.
After doubling his team's advantage from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute, Neymar walked towards a television camera and mimed the number 24 with his hands - a reference to the jersey which Bryant wore through most of his career in Los Angeles.
Neymar throws up the 24 for Kobe 💜 pic.twitter.com/mPUveZpNA2— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) January 26, 2020
"I went to look at the messages on social media at halftime, I found out that Kobe was dead," Neymar said to French broadcaster Canal+ after the game via a translator.
"It's very saddening for the world of sport and for all of us. Not only for basketball fans but for everything he did for the sport. I knew him and made this celebration for him, for his number. I hope he rests in peace."
Fellow footballing great Cristiano Ronaldo also paid tribute to Bryant via a post on Instagram, saying of the him: "So sad to hear the heartbreaking news of the deaths of Kobe and his daughter Gianna. Kobe was a true legend and inspiration to so many. Sending my condolences to his family and friends and the families of all who lost their lives in the crash. RIP Legend."
Lionel Messi, meanwhile, also reserved some words for Bryant following his passing, as did fellow Argentinian great Diego Maradona.
"I have no words… all my love for Kobe’s family and friends," Messi wrote. "It was a pleasure to meet you and share good times together. You were a genius like few others."
"I also regret the death of his daughter and the crew of the helicopter. See you, legend," wrote Maradona.Also on rt.com 'Please God no, it can't be true': Sports world in shock after death of 'global icon' Kobe Bryant