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Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo pay tribute to Kobe Bryant

Lakers, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kobe Bryant

Like many others have chosen to do, soccer superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo decided to send out social media tributes to Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles on Sunday morning at the age of 41.

Bryant had a great deal of respect for soccer, and especially for Messi, a footballer revered as one of the greatest of all time. Ronaldinho actually introduced Kobe to Messi in the early stages of his career — a story that Bryant later recanted in a 2016 ESPN interview.

Both players took to Instagram to share their own powerful tributes to Kobe Bryant.

“I have no words,” Messi wrote in his Instagram post. “All my love for Kobe’s family and friends. It was a pleasure to meet you and share good times together. You were a genius like few others.”

Ronaldo, another all-time great, spoke of the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant’s daughter in his tribute:

“So sad to hear the heartbreaking news of the deaths of Kobe and his daughter Gianna,” Ronaldo wrote in his post. “Kobe was a true legend and inspiration to so many. Sending my condolences to his family and friends and the families of all who lost their lives in the crash. RIP Legend.”

Bryant was on his way to serve as a coach at the Mamba Sports Academy on Sunday. Sadly, though, his private helicopter crashed en route, killing all nine passengers aboard.

Bryant will go down as one of the greatest players to ever dribble a basketball. The Lower Marion High School product earned several prestigious accolades over the course of his career in the NBA, including five championships with the Lakers, 18 All-Star nods and two Finals MVP Awards.