NBA

NBA legend Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna killed in helicopter crash

Los Angeles Lakers legend and five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant was among nine people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. He was 41.

5-time champion is 4th on all-time points list with 33,643

Kobe Bryant, left, and his daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. (Chris Carlson/The Associated Press)

Kobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday. He was 41.

Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif., according to reports. The crash happened around 10 a.m. local time, about 50 kilometres northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Alex Villanueva, sheriff of Los Angeles County, said there were nine people listed on the flight manifest and that everyone aboard the helicopter was killed, but did not identify any of the victims.

However, the city of Calabasas announced Bryant's death via Twitter.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76 and it was not known what caused the crash.

Firefighters work at the scene of a fatal helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press)

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent a "go team" of investigators to the site. NTSB generally issues a preliminary report within about 10 days that will give a rough summary of what investigators have learned.

The Sikorsky S-76 "is generally regarded as a good helicopter with a good safety record," said Gary C. Robb, an aviation attorney in Kansas City who wrote a textbook on helicopter crash litigation. "But parts fail, parts break. Anything can happen."

The crash occurred several miles from Mamba Sports Academy, Bryant's basketball training complex in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Bryant, who had four daughters with his wife, Vanessa, dedicated himself to boosting women's sports in his retirement.

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 travelled to practices and games by helicopter, and he kept up the practice after retirement as he attended to his business ventures.

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."

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) waves to the crowd after moving to No. 3 on the NBA's career scoring list during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday in Philadelphia, Pa. (Chris Szagola/Associated Press)

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.

WATCH | Raptors, Spurs honour Kobe Bryant with on-court tribute:

Both teams allow the 24 second shot clock to expire on their first possessions to pay respect to number 24, Kobe Bryant. 1:27

"Kobe was not only an icon in the sports arena, he was a man of the world and touched so many lives and communities in the most positive ways," said NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird. "His star was continuing to rise every day and he knew no limits because of his many intellectual and creative talents and desire to give back to others — his passion for the game, for his family and for others was apparent in everything he accomplished."

News of Bryant's death inspired an outpouring of grief around the sports world and beyond. The NBA kept its games as scheduled when the news broke.

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.

Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game. In December 2017, the Lakers hung banners retiring his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys in the Staples Center rafters in an unprecedented double honour.

WATCH | Kobe Bryant's video tribute from his final game:

Players, coaches and others reflect on Bryant's career. 3:25

Bryant looms large over the current generation of NBA players. After James passed Bryant on Saturday, he remembered listening to Bryant when the superstar came to speak at a childhood basketball camp.

"I remember one thing he said: 'If you want to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you've got to put the work in,'" James said. "There's no substitution for work."

James later teamed up with Bryant on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in Beijing.

"He had zero flaws offensively," James said. "Zero. You backed off of him, he could shoot the 3. You body him up a little bit, he could go around you. He could shoot from mid-range. He could post. He could make free throws. ... He was just immortal offensively because of his skill set and his work ethic."

Raptors issue statement

"It was just last night that we paused to remember some of the many great moments Kobe provided to basketball fans all over the world," the Toronto Raptors said in a statement.

"We marvelled at his passion for our game and at his tremendous skills — some of which he memorably unleashed against our team. Today, we are thinking of Kobe and his daughter Gianna, and of his teammates, his friends, and most especially his loved ones. Along with our NBA family, we are united in grief and deeply saddened at the loss of one of the greatest players in our sport, who was taken far too soon. We send our condolences to the Lakers, and especially to his wife Vanessa and to his daughters, who will forever miss their father and sister."

Oscar winner

Bryant opened a production company and entered the entertainment field in retirement. He won an Academy Award in 2018 for his contributions to "Dear Basketball," an animated short about his relationship to the game. He also produced content for ESPN.

Bryant was a basketball superstar for his entire adult life. He entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996 after a childhood spent partly in Italy, where his father, former NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, played professionally.

The Lakers acquired the 17-year-old Bryant in a trade shortly after Charlotte drafted him, and he immediately became one of the most exciting and intriguing players in the sport alongside O'Neal, who had signed with the Lakers as a free agent. Bryant won the Slam Dunk Contest as an upstart rookie, and the Lakers gradually grew into a team that won three consecutive championships.

Bryant and Gasol formed the nucleus of another championship team in 2008, reaching three straight NBA Finals and eventually winning two more titles.

In 2003, Bryant was charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He had said the two had consensual sex. Prosecutors later dropped the felony sexual assault charge against Bryant at the request of the accuser.

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