'Devastated and forever changed' - Lakers issue first public comments about Kobe Bryant

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Lakers organization has issued its first public statements about Kobe Bryant, saying they are "devastated" and "forever changed" by his death.

The team is also encouraging fans to contribute to Kobe's foundation to support the other families impacted by Sunday's deadly helicopter crash that claimed nine lives.

The team wrote on Twitter and Instagram:

We are devastated and have been forever changed by the sudden loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.

We send our love to Vanessa, the Bryant family, and to the families of the other passengers. Words cannot express what Kobe means to the Los Angeles Lakers, our fans, and our city. More than a basketball player, he was a beloved father, husband, and teammate.

Their love and light will remain in our hearts forever.

The Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to support the families affected by this tragedy. To help, please visit MambaOnThree.org. For those who are inspired to continue Kobe and Gianna's legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org.

Tributes have been pouring in from around the world about the late NBA superstar. On Wednesday, his widow Vanessa spoke up for the first time with a moving Instagram post.

Former teammate Shaquille O'Neal also offered a tribute and led fans in chants of "Kobe! Kobe!" at Staples Center.
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Shaquille O'Neal led fans in chants of "Kobe! Kobe!" as he left Staples Center Tuesday night.

LeBron James promised to carry on Kobe's legacy.

Two members of the Lakers organization who were close to Bryant have yet to speak publicly - controlling owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka, who was Bryant's agent before joining the team's front office.
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