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Players, coaches, fans mourn Kobe Bryant at Minnesota basketball game

In this Dec. 1, 2015 file photo Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant smiles as he jogs to the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Philadelphia. The Retired NBA superstar has died in helicopter crash in Southern California, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. Photo: Matt Slocum/Associated Press
In this Dec. 1, 2015 file photo Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant smiles as he jogs to the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Philadelphia. The Retired NBA superstar has died in helicopter crash in Southern California, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020.

Updated: January 26, 2020 10:58 PM

The Golden Gophers men's basketball team took on Michigan State on Sunday at Williams Arena, but just the news broke just before the game that one of basketball's biggest icons had passed away. 

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Kobe Bryant, the five-time NBA champion, former MVP and 18-time All-Star, died Sunday in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles. His daughter, 13-year-old Gianna Bryant, was also among the nine victims.

Although coaches for both teams found out about Bryant's death right before tip-off, they waited until the end of the game before revealing the news to the rest of their teams.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo leaned into Cassius Winston, the reigning Big Ten player of the year, that the Jordan of his generation abruptly died. The sadness and shock on his face and the college court were as thick as the fog in the hills above Calabasas.


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Known for making big shots himself, the Gophers' Marcus Carr became visibly upset when he reflected on one of the most important and influential athletes in his life

"It was devastating. As we all know, it's real sad a person we all looked up to grew up watching who helped us love the game," Carr said.

Izzo said during a post-game briefing he'd met Bryant a couple of times and remembered the Lakers legend as so much bigger than basketball. 

"He kind of stood for everything I believe in, one of the hardest working men in America and he had all that talent and money," Izzo said.

Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino admitted he normally doesn't get affected by people he doesn't know, but this death got to him.

"That's an unfortunate reminder. We played like crap, but I'm going home to hug my wife and kids because that's devastating, it just is, for whatever reason it feels like it hits home," Pitino said.

Fans at the Gophers game mourned Bryant's death, too, and many found out about the tragedy during the game. 

Fans say Kobe will always be known as a legend of the game.

"He'll go down as one of the greats for sure," one fan said.

"He was a great talent. He was a lot of fun to watch," another fan said.

Also Sunday, the Timberwolves and Lynx issued a joint statement:

"The Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx organization is deeply saddened by the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and those affected in today’s tragedy. Few players have had the worldwide impact on the game of basketball that Kobe did. His immense presence was felt not only on the court, but off the court as a husband, father, mentor, and entrepreneur. The NBA and the world are in a better place because of Kobe and our thoughts and prayers go out to Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, their family, and the Lakers organization."

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Credits

Joe Mazan & Beth McDonough

Copyright 2020 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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