Barack Obama mourns ‘heartbreaking’ deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant during speech at NBA event

Barack Obama mourns ‘heartbreaking’ deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant during speech at NBA All-Star event as Commissioner Adam Silver renames MVP award after the late star

  • 44th president spoke to NBA brunch during All-Star festivities in Chicago 
  • Obama honored Kobe and Gianna Bryant as well as the late David Stern 
  • Stern, the former commissioner, died of a brain hemorrhage on New Year’s Day 
  • NBA announced it is renaming All Star Game MVP after Kobe Bryant
  • Bryant, his daughter, and seven others died in a helicopter crash on January 26 

Former President Barack Obama once again paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, on Saturday, telling NBA officials in Chicago that ‘nothing is more heartbreaking’ as a parent than losing children.

The former president and ‘first fan’ of the NBA spoke at a brunch in his hometown on Saturday, which is playing host to this weekend’s All Star festivities.

The league continued to honor Bryant, this time announcing it will rename the All Star Game MVP award after the late Lakers great. 

Obama mentioned the deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant as well as the passing of David Stern, the former commissioner who died on New Year’s Day after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

Former President Barack Obama on Saturday paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and late NBA commissioner David Stern in Chicago

Obama is seen above on the right sharing a laugh with Bryant and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers during a visit to the White House in January 2010

Obama is seen above on the right sharing a laugh with Bryant and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers during a visit to the White House in January 2010

Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant (left), and seven others died in a January 26 helicopter crash in Calabasas, California

Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant (left), and seven others died in a January 26 helicopter crash in Calabasas, California

‘That loss [of Kobe Bryant] is something I know many are still grappling with,’ Obama said in his remarks, which were recorded and uploaded to social media by CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer.

‘Particularly Kobe, because he was with his daughter and those families and those children and those of us who have had the joy and privilege of being parents and taking kids to ball games and then rooting for our children and seeing our dreams and hopes passed on to them.

‘Nothing is more heartbreaking,’ Obama said.

‘And so I want to offer the NBA family Michelle and my deepest condolences and obviously the families of the Sterns and the Bryants,’ he added.

Obama led tributes to Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and seven others who died in a helicopter crash in California on January 26.

Obama's tribute, as tweeted Sunday, is pictured

 Obama’s tribute, as tweeted Sunday, is pictured

Sunday, which also claimed his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others. 

Obama tweeted that Bryant was ‘just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act’, just hours after the retired Los Angeles Lakers player’s Sikorsky S-76 crashed in Calabasas at about 10am. 

Kobe and Gianna Bryant along with all seven others on board, including sports coaches, two teenage girls, parents and the pilot, died when the helicopter struck the hillside and burst into flames. 

Obama wrote: ‘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 (his wife) and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.’ 

On the eve of the 69th NBA All-Star Game, the current commissioner. Adam Silver. felt it was important to recognize Stern, the founder of All-Star weekend.

Silver served for many years as the deputy commissioner to the late David Stern and considers the late commissioner emeritus a mentor. 

‘He was a force of nature for all of those who knew him,’ Silver said. 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also paid tribute on Saturday to his predecessor, David Stern (above), who died on New Year's Day after suffering a brain hemorrhage

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also paid tribute on Saturday to his predecessor, David Stern (above), who died on New Year’s Day after suffering a brain hemorrhage

‘A transformational figure.’

This weekend is a prolonged celebration of basketball life with tributes to Bryant and Stern front and center. 

‘No one embodies All-Star more than Kobe Bryant,’ Silver said.

Bryant was an 18-time All-Star who won the showcase’s MVP award a record-tying four times.

Silver said he has been struck recently by the similarities between the two league icons.

‘They could be difficult at times because they prioritized winning,’ Silver said. 

‘They didn’t have a lot of time for some of the niceties in personal interaction. … As the father of a child, that is the unimaginable.

‘This generation of players, so many of them look up to (Bryant) as a role model. The belief in winning, that extra drive and inner beast he called it.’

While not as visible this week, Michael Jordan’s impact on the game, league and city has been a constant undertone during the festivities. 

He also has ties to the previous All-Star Weekend in Chicago in 1988. 

Jordan won the Slam Dunk Contest and scored 40 points to earn MVP honors in the game.

Ever since, the league wanted the game to return.

Stern and Bryant are seen above shaking hands at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in October 2009

Stern and Bryant are seen above shaking hands at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in October 2009

Silver said he convinced Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, with an assist from his son Michael Reinsdorf, to bring the game back this year.

‘I remember Michael Jordan taking off from the line in that dunk contest,’ said Silver, who was a law student back in 1988 when he scored tickets to the All-Star Game in Chicago.

But this weekend remains as much a memorial as anything.

Silver clarified that the NBA was in contact indirectly with Bryant’s family and all teams with games on the schedule on the day of his death, January 26, but opted not to cancel games not involving the Lakers while seeking further clarity under extraordinary circumstances.

‘Chris Paul, the president of the players association, was one of the first people to call me. We talked about this sense of whether we should be canceling games on Sunday,’ Silver said. 

‘More than anything there was this sense of everyone wanting to be together.’

Silver said the NBA expects to return to CCTV, the primary broadcast outlet in China, but is not certain what the next step in the 40-year relationship with the country will advance beyond the acrimonious aftermath of Daryl Morey’s comments in October.

The league lowered cap projections – only slightly, Silver said – based on the loss of revenue from China.

Discussions for USA Basketball playing a game in a China prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are ongoing, Silver said.

The NBA continues to push for the creation of an in-season tournament, but Silver allowed health and the concern about whether an 82-game schedule is appropriate are critical to advancing those talks.   

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