United States basketball legend Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash in California.
- The Los Angeles Lakers legend was travelling with eight other people in his private helicopter when it crashed
- Authorities said there were no survivors, and US media is reporting Bryant’s daughter was also on board
- Bryant won five NBA championships with the Lakers and is regarded as one of the league’s greatest ever players
The 41-year-old Los Angeles Lakers guard and five-time National Basketball Association (NBA) champion was travelling with eight other people in his private helicopter when it crashed in Calabasas, California, about 65 kilometres north-west of Los Angeles.
In a press conference, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said nine people including the pilot were listed on the manifest, and authorities believed nine people had died.
Earlier reports from the Los Angeles County Sheriff and the City of Calabasas said four people had died, along with Bryant.
Various US media reports say Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter was one of the people on board the aircraft. But Sheriff Villanueva said it was inappropriate to identify anyone by name until the bodies had been identified by the coroner and families had been notified.
Twitter: @SportsCenter · 9m Kobe Bryant was on his way to a travel basketball game with his daughter, Gianna. Those aboard the helicopter also included another player and parent, sources told @wojespn
twitter: @PabloEscobarner Recently everyone was talking about how awesome this moment was between Kobe and his daughter, Gigi. Today, we collectively mourn them both. This life isn’t fair.
A teammate from Bryant’s daughter’s basketball team, a parent of the teammate, and the pilot were also killed in the crash, NBC News reported.
First responders put out the flames of the crash site, the sheriff’s department said, posting a picture of a fire truck and smoke emerging from the brush in a ravine.
Bryant was known to use a helicopter for travel during his days as a star player for the Los Angeles Lakers, when he commuted to games in a Sikorsky S-76 chopper, celebrity news website TMZ said.
The US Federal Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76, saying in a statement that the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate.
Bryant won five NBA championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was an 18-time NBA All-Star who wore the numbers 8 and 24 during his 20-year career with the team.
He won the Most Valuable Player award once in his career with the Lakers, before retiring in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history.
He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet.
“Much respect my brother.”
Bryant had one of the greatest careers in recent NBA history and became one of the game’s most popular players as the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers franchise.
Bryant was known for his a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic.
He was a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams.
Kobe Bryant’s career stats
- Drafted 13th in 1996 by Charlotte (traded to Lakers)
- NBA MVP (’08)
- Two-time Finals MVP (’09, ’10)
- 18-time All Star (’98, ’00-’16)
- 11-time First team All NBA (’02-’04, ’06-’13)
- Two-time scoring champion (’06, ’07)
- Championships: 5 (’00-’02, ’09,’10)
- Points: 33,643 (fourth)
- Field goals made: 11,719 (sixth)
- Wins: 836
- Games: 1,346 (14th)
- Minutes: 48,637 (seventh)
He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to the NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
O’Neal said he was “sick” after the news of Bryant’s death.
“There are no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my niece Gigi and my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I love you and you will be missed.
“My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board.”
Bryant and his wife Vanessa have four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born in June 2019.
Early in his professional career, the focus shifted from his basketball to an off-court incident where a woman accused him of sexual assault.
A US judge dismissed a rape charge in 2004 after the woman told prosecutors she could not go ahead with the case.
The 20-year-old woman, who received death threats in response to the case, accused Bryant of raping her after she entered his hotel room in 2003, at the resort where she worked in Colorado.
Bryant issued a statement apologising to the woman without admitting any wrongdoing.
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognise now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way that I did,” Bryant’s statement said.
NBA fans and stars react
Early tip-off NBA games went ahead as scheduled despite the news of Bryant’s death.
At the Raptors-Spurs game in San Antonio, both teams agreed to take 24-second violations from the tip-off — holding the ball for the allotted time and allowing a turnover — in honour of Bryant’s number 24.
Throughout the game, the crowd chanted Bryant’s first name.
Houston Rocket player Tyson Chandler, a former teammate of Bryant’s, was visibly upset courtside as his team played the Nuggets in Denver.
The news of the Lakers legend’s death broke 10 minutes before the game’s tip-off.
twitter: @rockets_insider Tyson Chandler clearly heartbroken. Not sure how these players are able to focus on the game. #Rockets
While fans at the National Football League (NFL) Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida, also began chanting Bryant’s first name after a moment of silence was held at the start of the game.
Twitter: @NFL_Stats · 14m The Pro Bowl has a moment of silence for Kobe, and the crowd begins chanting “Kobe, Kobe!”
In a statement, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said “the NBA family” was devastated by news of Bryant’s death.
“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,” the statement read.
“He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary.
“But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.
“He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.
“We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Vanessa and their family, the Lakers organisation and the entire sports world.”
Fellow former and current US basketball stars paid tribute to Bryant and reacted to his death on social media:
Twitter Magic Johnson: As I try to write this post, my mind is racing.
Twitter: @RealBillRussell . 13m Jeannine & I are absolutely shocked to hear of the loss of one of my favorite people & one of the best basketball minds in the history of the game! Our hearts & prayers to Vanessa & his girls. @kobebryant you were my biggest fan, but I was yours #RIPMAMBA @NBA @espn @SLAMonline
twitter: @JoelEmbiid · 36m Man I don’t even know where to start
twitter: @ScottiePippen · 1h I’m stunned. Words can’t even come close to describing it. Just an incredibly sad and tragic day.
Twitter: @dennisrodman · 1h Devastated to hear the news on my friend @kobebryant passing. Prayers go out to his wife Vanessa and his children and the @Lakers family.
Twitter: @ReggieMillerTNT · 15m This is piercing my soul, prayers to the Bryant family… Hard to even comprehend..
Twitter: @money23green stunned!
Instagram: There are no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of loosing my neice Gigi & my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie.