Star Wars star Mark Hamill has recalled awarding Kobe Bryant with his Oscar in 2018, in a tribute to the basketball legend who died yesterday in a helicopter crash.
After Bryant retired from the sport in 2016, he moved into the worlds of philanthropy and film-making, writing and narrating the short animation Dear Basketball.
The film was based on a poem that Bryant wrote on the eve of his retirement, published by The Player's Tribune, which detailed his love of the sport, set to music by veteran film score composer John Williams.
Directed by former Disney animator Glen Keane, it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 90th Academy Awards.
Hamill had the honour of presenting the award to Bryant on the night.
“It was his heartfelt love-letter to the game that made him a legend & a superstar. It was an honor to present him his much-deserved Oscar,” Hamill said.
He's among dozens of Hollywood stars to have paid tribute to Bryant, 41, whose helicopter crashed in fog 30 miles north west of central Los Angeles, killing all those on board, including Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Kobe won the Best Animated Short #AcademyAward for writing & narrating #DearBasketball (music by #JohnWilliams)-It was his heartfelt love-letter to the game that made him a legend & a superstar. It was an honor to present him his much-deserved Oscar.#GoneTooSoon #RIPGiannaBryant pic.twitter.com/ka9raxRYhm— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) January 27, 2020
Jack Nicholson, a lifetime Lakers fan, gave a rare and emotional interview in order to pay his respects to Bryant.
“My reaction is the same as almost all of LA.,” Nicholson told CBS.
“Where we think everything’s solid, there’s a big hole in the wall. I was used to seeing and talking to Kobe that… it kills you. It’s just a terrible event.
“I teased him the first time we met. It was at the Garden in New York and I offered him a basketball and asked him if he wanted me to autograph it for him. He looked at me like I was crazy.
“I remember the totality of how great a player he was… We’ll think of him all the time and we’ll miss him.”
Many others echoed Nicholson's sentiments.
Kobe was truly larger than life, a legend. May he and all those who lost their lives today rest in peace. Love and condolences to his family. LA will never be the same.— Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) January 26, 2020
RIP Kobe, hero to many including my grandson, extraordinary athlete and always kind to me & my family. My deepest condolences to his family— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) January 26, 2020
Kobe literally just broke the internet.— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) January 26, 2020
Life is just so beyond our capacity to control. May his loved ones and those of all who perished find peace.
Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players. But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete. pic.twitter.com/9EZuwk8wrV— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33) January 26, 2020
Like everyone, I’m stunned and saddened by the news about Kobe Bryant. My heart is broken for his wife and family.— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) January 26, 2020
I’m heartbroken. Shocked. Husband, Father, Strategist, Philosopher-Poet, Warrior-Athlete, Filmmaker...your focus is magnetic, Kobe. My love goes out to you and your family. pic.twitter.com/MpKlVdjKV8— Chadwick Boseman (@chadwickboseman) January 26, 2020
Was lucky enough to meet Kobe twice. Once on the set of a Nike ad I did with him. The second on the night he won an Oscars. In the short time I spent with him he was kind, generous, funny & also a bit of a film nerd. My heart goes out to his family with this tragic news. Too sad. pic.twitter.com/Q9p01MIAmf— edgarwright (@edgarwright) January 26, 2020
President Barack Obama added:
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020