Retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died Sunday morning in a fatal California helicopter crash that killed seven others.
There were no survivors in the crash around 10 a.m. in Calabasas, Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Three other people killed included a teammate of Gianna’s, the teammate’s parent and the pilot.
LA County sheriff Alex Villanueva said he believes there were nine people on the helicopter. He said he would not confirm who died until all next-of-kin are provided with the news.
An investigation is ongoing, and the National Transportation Safety Board said it sent a team to the site of the Sikorsky S-76B crash.
Bryant, 41, played for 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers and is considered one of the best basketball players of all time. He won five NBA championships, was an 18-time All-Star and is fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Bryant was born in Philadelphia and attended Lower Merion High School in the Philadelphia suburbs, where he dominated as a high school basketball player. He was drafted into the NBA immediately after graduating high school, becoming one of the youngest players in the league’s history.
At 34 years old, Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to surpass the 30,000 point mark. He retired in 2016, and was scheduled to headline the 2020 NBA Hall of Fame nominees.
Bryant had four daughters with his wife Vanessa — Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri. His father, Joe Bryant, was also a professional basketball player, and played with teams including the Philadelphia 76ers, the San Diego Clippers and the Houston Rockets.
NBA athletes, officials and fans mourned Bryant’s death in messages and memorials across social media.
“I’m stunned. Words can’t even come close to describing it. Just an incredibly sad and tragic day,” former NBA star Scottie Pippen tweeted.
“Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players,” tweeted former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete.”
Former LA Laker Shaquille O’Neal said there are “no words” to express the loss of Bryant and Gianna, and expressed condolences to the families of the other passengers on board.
“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
“He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary … 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,” Silver said.
Bryant’s legacy is also clouded with some controversy. He was arrested in 2003 after a sexual assault complaint was filed against him by a 19-year-old hotel employee, who claimed that he had raped her. The case was ultimately dropped and a civil suit was settled.
In a public apology, Bryant said he believed the encounter was consensual, but now recognized “that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
In his retirement, Bryant won an Academy Award for his film “Dear Basketball,” which was based on a poem he wrote. He also created a web series called “Detail” for ESPN, which analyzed film of current players, and traveled the country speaking to sports teams about leadership and basketball. (Courtesy CNBC Asia)