By Satuk Bugra Kutlugun
ANKARA (AA) - The Los Angeles Lakers have broken their media silence, posting online for the first time since Sunday’s untimely death of legendary superstar Kobe Bryant.
"We are devastated and have been forever changed by the sudden loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” the team posted on Instagram and Twitter late Wednesday, referring to Bryant’s 13-year-old-daughter, who died along with eight others in a helicopter crash.
Reaching out to Bryant’s widow and other surviving family members, the team added: “We send our love to Vanessa, the Bryant family, and to the families of the other passengers."
"Words cannot express what Kobe means to the Los Angeles Lakers, our fans, and our city. More than a basketball player, he was a beloved father, husband, and teammate. Their love and light will remain in our hearts forever."
In addition to Kobe Bryant, who was 41, and his daughter Gianna or Gigi, the copter crash also took the lives of Gianna's basketball teammate Alyssa Altobelli, Altobelli's father John Altobelli, 56, a baseball coach at Orange Coast College, and her mother Keri Altobelli.
The other casualties were Christina Mauser, a basketball coach at the nearby Harbor Day School, which Gianna Bryant attended; Payton Chester, a middle-school student; Sarah Chester, Payton's mother; and Ara Zobayan, the pilot.
-‘Kobe and Gigi knew they were deeply loved’
Widow Vanessa Bryant also posted on social media for the first time since the accident.
"My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time,” she wrote on Instagram. “Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri."
"We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately.
“There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon."
"I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever."
"Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality."
Wednesday’s scheduled Los Angeles Lakers-Los Angeles Clippers match was also postponed amid league-wide commemorations over Bryant’s death.