Former Oklahoma City Thunder players express grief over Bryant's sudden death

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(KFOR/CNN) – Many NBA players are still in shock after basketball legend Kobe Bryant and one of his daughters were among nine people killed Sunday morning when a helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria Onore Bryant were heading to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game.

The crash killed all nine people aboard, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

Tony Altobelli told CNN his brother, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, 56; John’s daughter Alyssa and wife Keri were killed in the crash. Altobelli was a former assistant baseball coach at the University of Houston, the school said.

Alyssa and Gianna were teammates, Tony Altobelli said.

Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Corona del Mar, California, was killed in the crash, her husband Matt Mauser, wrote on his Facebook page.

“My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash,” he wrote.

LA County Fire Department Capt. Tony Imbrenda said he didn’t immediately have any information about whether the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter radioed a distress signal.

“Individuals that saw the aircraft said it was coming down at a fairly significant rate of speed and impacted the ground on the hillside,” he told reporters.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash. However, officials say there was extremely low visibility at the time of the crash and conditions were foggy and cloudy with drizzle.

Due to the foggy conditions, the Los Angeles Police Department grounded its helicopters Sunday morning, a spokesman told CNN. Police spokesman Josh Rubenstein said the weather conditions did not meet the minimum standards for flying.

Mourning Kobe

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On Sunday, the Oklahoma City Thunder released the following statement regarding Bryant's passing:

"No words can adequately express the shock and sadness the NBA family is feeling. Kobe was an icon, a person who embodied greatness in so many ways. He pushed the game of basketball to new heights with a passion for the game that he shared with fans across the globe for decades. We send our thoughts and prayers to the Bryant family and all those who were lost in today's tragedy."

Former Thunder forward Desmond Mason said he always had a good relationship with Bryant, who was always trying to improve his game.

"I got the ball on the post, did a drop step move and kind of shimmed and turned as if I was gonna shoot a jump shot. And he jumped and I stepped through and bumped him and got a foul and a layup. And so he looked at me just kind of weird and the next play down, he said, 'Hey man, who do you work with on your footwork? Like I need to work with your footwork guy.' And I'm like, 'Dude, you're Kobe Bryant. What are you talking about you need to work with my footwork guy?' Kobe and I, we battled, man. I mean, we battled and we had a mutual respect for each other. We were always cool. We saw each other outside of basketball as well and we were always very cordial," Mason said.

Former Thunder stars like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook say they were always in awe of his work ethic.

"We had a day off and that's when the young players and the Olympians were all together. It had two buses ready for guys to go work out. Me and Jeff Green were the only two on the first bus, and right when it was about to leave, we see Kobe walking on by himself when everybody else took the day off. We worked out on one end and he worked out on the other. He made 50 shots from the three-point line. 50. That takes a lot, that's a long time to make 50 from seven spots on the three-point line. He was just dripping in sweat and we looked down there and just said, 'Man, he's the best player in the league and he took a bus to a high school gym to put some work in.' He's old school and that's exactly what I wanted to be like, so that was another cool story I remember of being around Kobe," Kevin Durant told News 4 in April of 2016.

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Westbrook says Bryant played a big role in his life since he grew up in Los Angeles, and he spoke about Bryant before his retirement in 2016

"Growing up in LA, a young boy watching the Lakers and watching him kind of take over the town. And to be here now, in the NBA and being a part of his last game is something special to me. It's a blessing and it's something that I'll never take for granted," Westbrook told News 4 in 2016.

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