Former NBA star and current Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers cut a heartbroken figure after the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, who became one of the NBA's most famous faces during an incredible 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Monday morning (NZT).

One of his four daughters, 13-year-old Gianna, was one of those killed in the accident which local authorities say claimed the lives of nine people in total.

As he faced the cameras before his side's clash against Orlando Magic, Rivers broke down in tears as he struggled to find the right words to express his grief.

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"I just don't have a lot to say," Rivers said. "The news is just devastating to everybody who knew him.

"He means a lot to me, obviously. He was such a great opponent … it's what you want in sports.

"He had that DNA that very few athletes can ever have.

"This is a tough one. We have to go play. The news is just devastating for (Bryant's wife) Vanessa and his family.

"There's just so many people he touched. Looking at my young players and seeing how emotional they are — they didn't even know him. It just tells you how far his reach was."

Rivers tried to compose himself but broke down again before talking about the last time he saw Bryant.

"This is just shocking news for all of us. Sorry I don't have a lot to say — I have to go talk to a team for a game," he said as the tears continued to flow.

"We were at a function three or four weeks ago and we sat and talked for probably 45 minutes."

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Rivers was coach of the Boston Celtics for several years during Bryant's Lakers career, with the two teams having a fierce rivalry and several brilliant showdowns.

"We always liked to reminisce. We would always laugh at our versions of our losses … and we would laugh at how different we looked at the games," Rivers reflected.

"This is a great loss for the league. He had so much more left to do and he was starting to do it — I'd never seen him happier.

"I feel for so many people. Obviously his family, I can't imagine.

"Sometimes things don't make sense. There's times you should feel, you just feel sad and this is one of them.

"You know you have to get through it. We will, we all will, we all have to be strong.

"Everybody right now is a Lakers fan. We're all Lakers today."