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Pennsylvanians react to death of Kobe Bryant

News of Kobe Bryant’s sudden death Sunday has left many people in a state of shock. The 41-year-old former NBA superstar was on a helicopter with his daug...

News of Kobe Bryant's sudden death Sunday has left many people in a state of shock.

The 41-year-old former NBA superstar was on a helicopter with his daughter, Gianna, and seven other people when it crashed in Calabasas, California on Sunday around 10 a.m. PST. Everyone on board was killed.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, but aviation experts suspect heavy fog and possible mechanical issues played a role in the crash.

Bryant, a Pennsylvania native, was born in Philadelphia in 1978 and played for the Lower Merion High School basketball team between 1992 and 1996. Considered one of the greatest players in NBA history, Bryant led the Aces to a state championship in 1996 and left Lower Merion as the greatest basketball player in the program's history, with nearly 3,000 career points.

When he graduated, Bryant went straight to the NBA, skipping college basketball altogether. He was the 13th overall selection in the NBA draft at the age of 17. The Charlotte Hornets picked Bryant, then immediately traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant would go on to become an 18-time NBA All-Star and led the Lakers to five championships.

Gregg Downer, who coached Bryant during his time at Lower Merion, said he was completely shocked and devastated by this news.

"Aces Nation has lost its heartbeat," Downer said in a statement posted on the Lower Merion School District's website.

Mourners set up a memorial outside of the Bryant Gymnasium at Lower Merion High School Sunday night. The gym was dedicated to Bryant in 2010. That same year, Bryant returned to his alma mater for a homecoming game.

"You have spent close to half your life in California, but you've never forgotten your Aces roots," Downer said.

The Lower Merion community in Montgomery County, just outside of Philadelphia, also reacted to the news with major heartache.

Lower Merion School District spokesperson, Amy Buckman, described how her children, who attended Lower Merion High School and are traveling the world, are getting condolences from fans.

"People all over the world have walked up to them and said: 'Lower Merion. Kobe Bryant.' I mean, he is how we are identified around the world. So this is a difficult time for our community" Buckman said. "The entire Lower Merion School District sends its deepest condolences to the entire Bryant family."

Buckman went on to say the Lower Merion School District plans to focus on supporting people in their community, including Downer and Bryant's high school English teacher, Jeanne Mastriano, whom Bryant credits for sparking his love of writing.

"The talent level was unreal," said Lower Merion-area referee Harvey Sumner. "People thought he was going to go right to college, but you knew, you could tell right then and there he was going to the NBA. He had so much talent."

Elsewhere around the state, former high school basketball players in Scranton, who competed against Bryant and the Aces in 1996, remember the year they went toe-to-toe on the court.

"I was excited," said former Scranton player Will Chandler. "I was 15 and I didn't know any better. (I thought) I'm going to shut this guy down, I didn't know who he was and that's what it was."

Chandler is now the coach of the Misericordia University men's basketball team. He says Bryant's skill inspired him.

"He was a killer on the court, and that's what I try to teach my guys to this day and that's how I wanted to play," Chandler said.

On Saturday, Los Angeles Lakers' forward Lebron James surpassed Bryant for the third on the NBA's all-time scoring list, with a 29-point performance in a 108-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

That evening, Kobe Bryant congratulated James in what would be his last posts on social media.

 

Former 76ers legend Allen Iverson issued a statement about Bryant's passing on Monday.

"Words cannot express how I'm feeling today, the only 2 rods that ring in my head: devastated and heartbroken. I cannot seem to shake this feeling no matter what I've tried to do since hearing this yesterday," Iverson said.

Iverson was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft -- the same year Bryant was selected 13th.

Iverson extended his thought and prayers to Bryant's family, as well as the families of the other crash victims.

"We will find the strength to pull through this together because that's what Kobe would want us to do," he said.

Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and three daughters.

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