Basketball legend Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash

Five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist was killed in a helicopter crash at the age of 41. 

By Scott Bregman and Sven Busch

Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

The basketball superstar was 41.

The Los Angeles County Sherrif's Department confirmed on Sunday, there were no survivors of the crash. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says nine people were aboard the helicopter. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna was also on board. She was one of four daughters Bryant had with his wife Vanessa Laine Bryant.

At least four others on board have been identified. According to the Orange County Register, John Altobelli, the Orange Coast College baseball coach, his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, were among the crash victims. Costa Mesa mayor Katrina Foley tweeted that girls' basketball coach Christina Mauser was also killed.

"It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Kobe Bryant and four others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10:00 this morning," the city of Calabasas said on Twitter.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said it was a Sikorsky S-76 plane and the cause of the crash was still unknown.

The tragedy was first reported by TMZ and then confirmed by ESPN.

Bryant won five NBA titles with the Lakers and two Olympic gold medals.

The 1.98 m forward was twice the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (2009, 2010) during his 20-year career playing for the Lakers. Bryant retired after the 2015-16 season, following a string of injuries that included a torn Achilles tendon. He ended his career with 33,643 points, 7,047 rebounds and 6,306 assists.

"Words cannot express his impact on our Players, the NBA, and the game of basketball," the NBA Players Association said in a statement. "This is a monumental loss for the entire basketball community and our hearts are simply broken."

Just last night Bryant was passed by Lakers forward LeBron James for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

"Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames," Bryant wrote in his last tweet. "Much respect my brother." The two won Olympic gold together at Beijing 2008.

Monday evening, the Lakers announced that their game scheduled for Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers will be postponed and rescheduled for a future date.

"The Los Angeles would like to thank all of you for the tremendous outpouring of support and condolences," the Lakers' statement read. "This is a very difficult time for all of us. We continue to support the Bryant family and will share more information as it is available.

IOC President Thomas Bach wrote on Twitter:

"Kobe was an outstanding and true Olympic champion. He embraced the power of sport to change people's lives."

One of the best in history

Bryant was drafted straight out of high school in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets as the 13th overall pick but the 17-year-old was immediately traded to the Lakers.

Born in Philadelphia, he became a transcendent superstar who formed an exciting partnership with Shaquille O'Neal. Bryant had undoubtedly one of the greatest careers in NBA history and was the face of the Lakers for almost two decades.

Nicknamed the Black Mamba, he became eligible to enter the Hall of Fame this year.

Tributes pouring in

The tributes have poured in from athletes and celebrities alike, including former U.S. President Barack Obama who called it an "unthinkable day".

Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn tweeted, “I am at a loss for words. How does this happen?! Devastated. Rip Kobe 🙏🏻🙏🏻”

Other Olympic champions have also responded to the news, including four-time Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles, who posted a photo of the 2016 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team and Bryant with the message, "rest in peace Kobe," and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt.

"Truly sad. Rest In Peace, Kobe. Your legacy lives on forever. 🙏🏾 Prayers to his family and friends," swimmer Simone Manuel tweeted.

NBA great Michael Jordan reacted in disbelief:

"I am in shock.over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing. Words can't describe the pain I'm feeling. I loved Kobe - he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply - and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball."

Moments of silence were held at several NBA games on Sunday. Bryant was also remembered at the Grammy Awards which were held at the Los Angeles Lakers' arena.

"We're all feeling crazy sadness right now," said Grammys host Alicia Keys. "Because earlier today in Los Angeles, America and the whole world lost a hero. We're literaly standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built."

Post-basketball life

While Bryant was one of the most celebrated players on the court, he was also involved in some controversy off it. In 2003 he was charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. Bryant said the two had consensual sex. Prosecutors dropped the charges a year later. The accuser refused to testify.

In his post-basketball life Bryant had focused a lot of his attention on philantropy work and entertainment ventures. He even won an Academy Award in 2018 for his animated short film "Dear Basketball".