'Devastated' Vanessa Bryant issues statement following death of 'adoring husband' Kobe and 'beautiful daughter' Gianna

Wife of NBA legend and mother of 13-year-old Gianna says 'there aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now'

FILE - This Feb. 26, 2018 file photo shows Vanessa Bryant, from left, Kobe Bryant, Natalia Bryant and Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant at the world premiere of "A Wrinkle in Time" in Los Angeles. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. He was 41. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
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Vanessa Bryant, the wife of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and mother of Gianna Bryant who were both killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, has said she and the rest of the family are "completely devastated" and thanked the "millions of people who've shown support and love during this horrific time".

Nine people died on Sunday morning when a helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. Among the passengers were Los Angeles Lakers great Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Tributes have poured in from around the world as sports stars, organisations, entertainers, politicians and millions of others share their condolences and grief.

Vanessa Bryant has now released her first statement following the tragic deaths of her "adoring husband" and "beautiful daughter".

"My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them," she wrote in an Instagram post that featured a picture of her family.

"We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe – the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna – a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri.

"We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately.

"There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.

"I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless – and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever.

"Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality."

Bryant's death has been felt throughout the sports world this week, with various athletes and events honouring the basketball legend.

Opening Night at the Super Bowl displayed large images of Bryant and the lights were dimmed at Marlins Park as the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers and everyone in attendance observed a moment of silence.

Tennis players and fans at the Australian Open wore Lakers jerseys with Bryant's name on the back, while Novak Djokovic had "KB" and the basketball player's numbers, 8 and 24, stitched into his tracksuit.

NBA teams across North America have honoured Bryant in various ways, while the organisation opted to delay the Lakers' game against the Clippers on Tuesday.

Thousands of fans have laid flowers and cards at the Staples Center – the home of the Lakers and where Bryant played for his entire 20-year career.

World leaders including Barack Obama and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, have also paid tribute to Bryant.