The sudden death of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna has shocked and devastated fans and athletes worldwide, including Milwaukee Bucks star forward and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In the hours following Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday morning, “The Greek Freak” apparently removed himself from social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
ESPN-Milwaukee host Doug Russell tweeted screenshots of Antetokounmpo’s now deactivated Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Antetokounmpo has not publicly stated the reason for his exit, but the basketball star likely made the decision in wake of the overwhelming social media responses to the deaths of Bryant, his daughter and seven other passengers aboard the helicopter.
In an interview with reporters on Monday, the Bucks star mentioned that he wanted to keep private in wake of the tragedy.
“I’m just trying to keep private how I feel,” he said. “Everybody deals with a tragedy in their own way… All I can say is that I pray for the people that were affected by it. [Sunday] was a horrible day for basketball – for everybody…”
Antetokounmpo spoke with Bryant in 2016 after the future Hall-of-Famer’s final game in Milwaukee. The two discussed Giannis’ potential for success and MVP.
Although the two players’s careers only overlapped for three seasons, they shared a publicly known bond that lasted beyond Bryant’s retirement that same year.
In 2017, the former Lakers shooting guard took to Twitter, challenging Antetokounmpo to win league MVP — an honor he would ultimately receive in 2019.
During his post-practice interview, Antetokounmpo reflected upon what he called Kobe’s “greatness,” explaining what made him unique.
“Kobe is two different people – a basketball player and the person off-the-court,” he said. “He always had that smile. He always had that charisma that he carried with him. I think it touched a lot of people in the world — it touched my family. It touched a lot of families that never had the chance to meet him.”
He later added: “It’s a sad day. There’s not much you can say about it.”
Video: Giannis Reflects on Kobe
In the days following Bryant’s death, athletes across all sports have paid respects to the internationally beloved icon in their own unique ways, including on-camera shoutouts, “24” hand gestures — and even wearing Kobe jerseys.
Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios added to the growing list of honorary gestures before his Australian Open match on Monday, where he entered the court wearing Bryant’s former #8 Lakers jersey.
Fellow tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas commemorated Bryant and his daughter via Twitter with a graphic image of the duo standing under a basketball hoop with halos over their heads.
Featured image at the top of article: Feb 22, 2016. Milwaukee, WI, USA. Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) hugs Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) before the game at BMO Harris Bradley Center. (Credit / Benny Sieu, USA TODAY Sports)
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