A mourner holds up a lit candle in Microsoft Square near the Staples Center to pay respects to Kobe Bryant after a helicopter crash killed the retired basketball star, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 26, 2020. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
A mourner holds up a lit candle in Microsoft Square near the Staples Center to pay respects to Kobe Bryant after a helicopter crash killed the retired basketball star, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 26, 2020. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot

NBA community, friends and family paid emotional tributes to late basketball legend Kobe Bryant on what would have been his 42nd birthday on Sunday.

“To my baby~ Happy birthday. I love you and miss you more than I can ever explain,” wrote Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, in a letter on Instagram.

Retired NBA superstar Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash amid foggy conditions in the hills above Calabasas in Southern California on Jan. 26.

“I wish you and Gigi were here to celebrate YOU! I wish I could make you your fav food or a birthday cake with my Gigi. I miss your big hugs, your kisses, your smile, your loud ass deep laugh,” Vanessa added in the heartfelt letter.

Kobe and Vanessa Bryant, 38, married in 2001, and they had four daughters together.

“God I miss you both so much. Our lives feel so empty without you and Gigi. I’ve been completely broken inside. As much as I want to cry, I put a smile on my face to make our daughters days shine a little brighter. I’m not the strong one, they are. They’re strong and resilient. I’m sure you’re proud of them. They put a smile on my face everyday,” Vanessa continued, noting that she wishes she could wake up from the horrible nightmare.

“I love you for now, forever and for always,” she concluded, saying happy birthday to Kobe with their daughters.

Kobe’s 17-year-old daughter, Natalia, posted a photo of herself as a little girl in Kobe’s arms on Instagram.

“Happy Birthday Dad, I miss your smile, laugh and big bear hugs. Happy Birthday to the best movie buddy I could have ever asked for,” she wrote.

NBA and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) celebrated the memory of Kobe on Sunday.

“Remembering Kobe,” NBA wrote on its official Twitter account while WNBA tweeted “Happy birthday Kobe.”

“We miss you every day, Kobe. Happy birthday from your Lakers family,” Los Angeles Lakers tweeted. Kobe played his whole 20-year NBA career with the team and won five NBA championships.

A number of NBA stars also sent emotional messages to honor Kobe.

“Happy birthday brother,” Kobe’s longtime teammate Pau Gasol tweeted.

“Kobe taught us to be better. A better scorer, better mentor, better father, better champion. Today, on his birthday, we continue his endless pursuit of better,” Gasol noted, adding that he will always be thankful for how much Kobe has impacted his life in so many different ways.

“I’m honored to wear the purple and gold the same way he did,” wrote NBA player Javale McGee in a tweet.

LeBron James, the current leading figure of Lakers, shared a video on Instagram to pay tribute to Kobe, in which he and others were singing “happy birthday” to Kobe during the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Lakers will wear their “Black Mamba” uniforms in a playoff game Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers. Kobe’s self-given nickname is “The Black Mamba.”

In honor of Kobe, Aug. 24, the date that contains both his Lakers jersey numbers, 8 and 24, has been recognized as “Kobe Bryant Day” by Southern California’s Los Angeles City and Orange County. Enditem

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