CALABASAS, Calif. (WNCN/AP) — Retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and others in an aircraft died in a helicopter crash in California Sunday morning. Bryant was 41.
Officials reported that the private helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76, had a fire break out. Initially, reports said five people were confirmed dead in the crash in the Calabasas area, but during a news conference Sunday afternoon, officials said nine people were aboard and they all died.
Bryant’s wife Vanessa was not on board the helicopter, according to reports. Bryant’s second-oldest daughter, Gianna Maria Onore, 13, was also on board the helicopter and died in the crash.
The crash happened around 10 a.m. near about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, on a hillside in the 4200 block of Las Virgenes Road.
Word of Bryant’s sudden death rocketed around the sports and entertainment worlds, with many taking to Twitter to register their shock, disbelief and dismay.
“There’s no words to express the pain Im going through,” tweeted Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal, who won three NBA titles with Bryant. “(at)kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. … IM SICK RIGHT NOW.”
“Man I don’t even know where to start,” tweeted Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid. “I started playing ball because of KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched ball before that and that finals was the turning point of my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I’m so FREAKING SAD right now!!!!”
Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic. 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 (at)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. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams.
He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
“Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed, and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court – and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved. He will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
President Donald Trump reacted to the reports of Bryant’s death soon after they began to surface, tweeting: “That is terrible news!”
Bryant lived south of Los Angeles in coastal Orange County for much of his adult life, and he often used helicopters to save time and avoid Southern California’s notorious traffic. Even as a player, he often traveled to practices and games by helicopter, and he kept up the practice after retirement as he attended to his business ventures.
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