NBA and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant has passed away at the age of 41.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among several killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a news conference later Sunday that there were no survivors and according to the flight manifest there were nine people on board the helicopter. Local authorities will not release names of victims until they are identified and next of kin notified.
After being selected with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, Bryant spent 20 years in the NBA, all with the Lakers. He won five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, two gold medals and was named league MVP in 2008. In addition to his exploits as a scorer, Bryant was named to 12 All-Defensive teams, the most selections by a guard in NBA history. He's among the league's most decorated players and is the Lakers' all-time franchise leader in points, games, steals and made 3-pointers among others.
The crash occured one day after Bryant was passed by LeBron James on the all-time scoring list. Bryant was among those active on social media congratulating James during and after the game between the Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers. James himself honoured Bryant during the game, inscribing "Mamba 4 Life" and "8/24 KB" on his sneakers. "Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames," Bryant wrote in his last tweet. "Much respect my brother."
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644- Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
"It's another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school," James said. "Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration. It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do."
On December 18, 2017 Bryant became the first player in NBA history to have two differerent numbers retired by the same team. He wore No. 8 and No. 24 as a member of the Lakers, both of which now hang in the rafters at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles. Even with the Lakers and Clippers off with the Grammys in Los Angeles, scores of fans showed up at the STAPLES Center to remember Bryant. The Lakers and Clippers play each other on Tuesday.
Just surreal at Staples Center - Kobe's face on every screen as hundreds of people seem to just want to be somewhere they can cry together. Also: The Grammys are here tonight so there is the odd person wandering around in a tuxedo.- Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) January 26, 2020
None of this feels real. pic.twitter.com/esukv1yNZs
Fellow Lakers' legend Magic Johnson was among those stunned by the tragedy. "I thought he was going to live forever," Johnson told KCBS-TV. "I thought he was invincible. ... There was nobody who took more pride in putting on that Laker uniform than Kobe. Nobody. He was just special. We will miss him and we'll remember him for his greatness, but let's not forget how he impacted the world, too."
@MakeAWish is devastated to learn of wish granter Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna's tragic death. Kobe granted more than 200 wishes, giving each child hope for a brighter future. Our heartfelt condolences to the Bryant family. https://t.co/WkZG9QHV28- Make-A-Wish LA (@makeawishla) January 26, 2020
After retiring from the NBA, Bryant opened a production company and entered the entertainment field. 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.
News from the Associated Press was used in this report.