Lakers legend and NBA great Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna killed in helicopter crash.
Authorities confirmed a helicopter reportedly carrying NBA icon Kobe Bryant crashed in California with no survivors, multiple outlets reported Sunday.
Kobe Bryant died Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. He was 41. The former Los Angeles Lakers legend and NBA superstar was among five people killed in the crash. An investigation of the crash is ongoing, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which confirmed there are no survivors.
Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was on board and also killed in the crash, the Los Angeles Times reported.
TMZ first reported on its website that Bryant, 41, an 18-time all-star, was aboard the aircraft. CNN also confirmed Bryant was aboard the helicopter. The Los Angeles Times, also citing sources, said Bryant was killed when the helicopter crashed in foggy conditions in the hills above Calabasas.
Now fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, with 33,643 points, Bryant won two NBA Finals MVP awards and one NBA regular-season MVP in 2008.
The crash ignited a brush fire and made it difficult for firefighters and emergency personnel to get to the aircraft, the watchman told the Times.
Bryant played 20 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers. In his final tweet, Bryant congratulated LeBron James for passing him as the NBA’s third-leading all-time scorer.
James inscribed his sneakers with “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB” in gold marker before the game, ESPN reported.
Bryant is eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame this year.
Allen Kenitzer, an FAA spokesman, said his agency and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the crash, the Times reported.
The fourth-leading scorer in NBA history with 33,643 career points, Bryant was a five-time NBA champion with the Lakers and 18-time NBA All-Star who was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2008. He was twice an NBA Finals MVP and an 11-time All-NBA First Team selection. The two-time NBA scoring champion was known just as much for his prowess on the other end of the court, picking up nine selections to the NBA All-Defensive First Team.
Beyond his NBA achievements, Bryant, who spent much of his youth in Italy, had a celebrated international career as one of the catalysts behind Team USA’s renaissance after earning only a Bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics. His commitment to play for Team USA in the 2008 Olympics helped in the recruitment of other superstars, and players on the team have spoken widely about his work ethic and the impact that he had on the team’s mentality. He led the team to a narrow victory over Spain in the Gold Medal Game and played on the 2012 gold medal-winning team as well.
Bryant is especially revered among Lakers fans. A high school phenomenon in Philadelphia and the son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, Kobe was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 but immediately traded to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.
He was the youngest player in NBA history when he took the court in 1996 and spent his entire 20-year career in Los Angeles. Bryant ultimately played more games in purple and gold than anyone in franchise history and holding distinctions as the team’s all-time leader in points, minutes and steals. His self-bestowed “Black Mamba” nickname has persisted well beyond his career. Players wear the distinction of having a “mamba mentality” as a badge of honor. As Bryant himself has said, that means “constantly try[ing] to be the best version of yourself.”
Both Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal — Bryant’s former teammate — have called Bryant the greatest player in Lakers history, a statement that would be supported by millions of fans. Both of Bryant’s jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — were retired by the Lakers. He is the only player in NBA history to have two numbers retired by the same team after wearing No. 8 for his first 10 seasons in the NBA and No. 24 for his final 10.
Bryant was particularly known for his prodigious scoring ability. In one legendary game in 2006, Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second-most in NBA history trailing only Wilt Chamberlain’s 100. He scored 60 points in his final NBA game in 2016, a record for any player in their finale.
Bryant had spent his retirement working on a variety of different projects. He claimed that he wanted to be known as a storyteller and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 2018 for Dear Basketball, a film based on the essay he wrote announcing his retirement. He also released the first book in a planned young adult fantasy series, The Wizenard Series: Training Camp, written alongside Wesley King. His entertainment company, Granity Studios, had a number of other projects in the works.
LeBron James, viewed by most as the heir to Bryant’s title as the league’s best player, signed with the Lakers in 2018. James passed Bryant as the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer on Saturday night, achieving that distinction against Bryant’s hometown team, the Philadelphia 76ers. “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644,” Bryant tweeted on Saturday night.
While beloved by NBA fans around the globe, Bryant’s life was not without controversy. Sexual assault allegations were levied against him in 2003 by a female hotel employee in Eagle, Colorado. The charges were ultimately dismissed, and Bryant settled a separate civil suit over the matter. Though he did not admit guilt, he publicly apologized for the incident while claiming that he considered their encounter consensual.
However complicated that makes Bryant’s legacy, what cannot be debated is his impact on NBA history. For two decades, he was among the league’s most polarizing and productive players. Bryant was involved in almost every major basketball story of the past 25 years, and he will be sorely missed by a league that idolizes him.
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