Super Bowl 2020 opening night: Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs and 49ers players react to Kobe Bryant death

The NBA world and the sports world at large lost an icon on Sunday, as Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was killed along with eight others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. The 41-year-old was traveling to a youth basketball event with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who also perished in the tragic accident.

Everything seemed to come to a standstill once the news spread across the country. All NBA games on Sunday started off with either a moment of silence, 24-second shot clock violations or eight-second backcourt violations to honor one of the best basketball players of all time. The Pro Bowl also honored Bryant on Sunday, as they held a moment of silence for the NBA icon and players even centered their celebrations around the late five-time NBA champion. 

The sports world was still reeling on Monday, but Super Bowl opening night began as scheduled at Marlins Park to kick off the week. Naturally, many players were asked about their thoughts on the passing of one of the most recognizable names in sports, and each offered their own take on the tragedy. The night also began with a moment of silence for the legendary Laker:

Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu was asked about Bryant's passing, and responded saying that he was, "Shocked and sad. I thought guys like him lived forever."

"Damn Kobe," Mathieu tweeted yesterday upon hearing the news. "You sparked the mind of every competitor. You made us all dig a lil deeper." 

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was also asked about the passing of Bryant. He said that he never met him, but that Bryant, "Made a huge impact on my life for sure. To this day, I still watch videos on YouTube," according to Adam Teicher of ESPN. 

Tight end Travis Kelce also sounded off on Bryant's tragic passing, and spoke about the kind of impact he had on the sports world at large.

"I had the opportunity to meet Kobe and he's just an unbelievable person," said Kelce, via Fox Sports. "You can't say enough about who he was and his impact and with that ... man, I just feel bad for the Bryant family, everybody involved out there on the west coast and my heart's with you as well as everyone here in America." 

Defensive lineman Frank Clark, who was born in Bakersfield, California, spoke about Bryant as a role model.

"He's one of my biggest idols," Clark said, via Nick Shook of NFL.com. "The one person I looked to for inspiration and strength when going through what I was going through growing up was Kobe Bryant."

When it was the San Francisco 49ers' turn to take the stage for opening night, they were asked the same questions about Bryant.

"You know Kobe was -- other than my parents -- he was the reason I played sports," said 49ers tight end George Kittle, via Fox Sports. "Just his mindset, you know, the 'Mamba Mentality.' I wore the No. 24 in high school in my freshman and sophomore year because of him and I wore Kobe Bryant shoes because of Kobe Bryant. Every time I laced up my basketball shoes I felt like I had Kobe Bryant with me, I had a little part of him. I had his jumper, I had his fadeaway -- the amount of hours I spent practicing that fadeaway from the corner, and I never made it! But I tried and I always thought I was Kobe. He was an icon, he was a hero of mine."

That "Mamba Mentality" was Bryant's gift to sports. It was about attacking whatever was in front of you with all your might no matter if you were ill-equipped or facing insurmountable odds. He lived out that mentality, and it was on full display back in April of 2013. Bryant and the Lakers were facing off against the Golden State Warriors when Bryant went down with a torn Achilles tendon. He was able to stand up, hit two free throws, and then hobbled off the court. The injury was season-ending.

49ers cornerback Richard Sherman recounted a similar moment in his life on Monday night. 

"I guess the biggest 'Mamba Mentality' moment of my career was getting up from a torn Achilles and walking off the field," said Sherman, via Mackenzie Salmon of USA TODAY Sports. "I saw him do it. I saw him make two free throws and walk off with a torn Achilles and once I tore mine, I knew I had to walk off. Like he said before, we're different animals but the same beast."

"It's really sad," said Sherman, via Kyle Madson of USA TODAY Sports. "He was a friend of mine. He was a mentor. He meant a lot to this world, and he made a positive impact. There's nothing I can really say to quantify his impact on myself and on others. I just know how he would've wanted me to take this and to react -- especially in this moment and this game. I was really sad yesterday, and I was sad this morning and I was kind of down, I was in the dumps. And then I just thought about what he would tell me. He would tell me to stop being a baby and man up and play it, and do it in his honor and win this game for him and that's what we're gonna try to do. I'm gonna go out there and try to play some dominating ball just like he wanted. The 'Mamba Mentality' still lives on." 

Bryant was the youngest player in NBA history when he first took the court in 1996, and he spent his entire 20-year career in Los Angeles. The "Black Mamba" eventually evolved into one of the best players in NBA history, and retired in 2016 as the fourth-leading scorer with 33,643 career points. His jersey numbers -- 8 and 24-- were both retired by the Lakers. 

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