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Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez share personal memories of friendship with Kobe Bryant in heartfelt tributes

Kobe Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna

Hanna Fillingham

On Sunday, basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were tragically killed in a helicopter crash, and many famous faces took to social media to pay their respects. Among the stars to post tributes were Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, who were good friends with Kobe and his wife Vanessa. Alex shared a lengthy post on Instagram, accompanied by pictures of Kobe and Gianna, as well as photos of him and Jennifer with Kobe and Vanessa during evenings out. He wrote: "My heart hurts so much right now. I still can't wrap my head around this. How can it be? I learned so much from Kobe Bryant. He was naturally gifted, but had a passion for basketball like no one else I've ever seen."

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Alex Rodriguez shared photos from over the years with Kobe Bryant

A-Rod continued: "His work ethic was impeccable and his stress on mastering the fundamentals is what elevated him to the player he was. I've never met anyone more focused with a myopic approach. He didn't pursue approval, affirmation or adulation. He pursued excellence and process. He followed my career and would often call to help with my health, daily routine ... and would even chime in about hitting techniques. He was a role model to me, and millions around the world."

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Alex and Kobe had been friends since they were teenagers

Reflecting on their close friendship over the years, Alex wrote: "We met as teenagers. We followed similar paths. We went from high school to the pros and our baby girls grew up together. People don't know this, but he was my secret coach. He pushed me and motivated me, especially toward the end of my career when I needed him most. He was always there. Even after our playing days, he was there for me. He attended @Jlo's last show in Vegas. He appeared on TheCorp podcast. I last saw him a few months ago. I will remember what he told me about how much he loved Vanessa and his girls, and that he continued to say no to 99 percent of offers, choosing instead to spend as much time with his family as possible. I will remember his greatness. I will remember his guidance. I will remember his friendship. I will remember that he made me a better person."

READ: Priyanka Chopra paid tribute to Kobe Bryant at the Grammys with her manicure

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Jennifer Lopez with Kobe and his wife Vanessa

Alex then reflected on the devastating death of Gianna, adding: "His 13-year-old daughter Gianna was following in her Dad’s footsteps. She was kind, smart, caring and going to be a star. Rest in peace, Kobe. Rest in peace, GiGi. My heart and prayers go out to the Bryant family and the passengers' families."

Jennifer also shared a number of photos of Kobe and Gianna on her own Instagram account, and opened up about how much Kobe's family meant to him, while sending her condolences to Vanessa. She wrote: "Family. As I scrolled through Kobe’s feed, and Alex and I talk memories and moments we remember about him ... this is the truth that rings out the loudest ... family is what matters most. We are all feeling sadness from this loss, but all I can think of is that it is a grain of sand compared to what Vanessa must going through right now.

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Kobe and his daughter Gianna, 13, were tragically killed in a helicopter crash

"I am sending all of my love and praying for you, your children and the other families involved in today’s tragic turn of events. The most unfair thing in life is to lose a child and husband on the same day. Vanessa, I pray for your strength and that God guides you each step of the way through this unimaginable heartbreak. To the other families who are suffering from this unthinkable tragedy, may God be with you all. Kobe you meant so much to so many and we will miss you forever. Thank you for your work ethic, your inspiration and your heart."

Kobe and Gianna were travelling in a private helicopter on Sunday morning when it came down and burst into flames. They were two of the nine people on board, and the LA county sheriff has confirmed that there were no survivors. Along with tributes from celebrities and fellow sports stars, Kobe's tragic death was remembered at the Grammy Awards, which were held at the Staples Centre, the Los Angeles Lakers' stadium, on Sunday night.

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