Kobe Bryant—universally considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time—has died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. He was 41.
Bryant, who has used his own private helicopter for travel purposes since his playing days, was with eight other people. One of onboard was his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Flight records show the helicopter departing John Wayne Airport in Los Angeles just after 9 a.m. this morning. Witnesses reported seeing the chopper sputtering and smoking in the air just after 10 a.m., after which it crashed to the ground in a fireball. There were no survivors.
Born in Philadelphia to a father who played eight seasons in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers, and Houston Rockets, Bryant was an exceptional basketball player in high school. Rather than go the college route, he entered the NBA draft at age 17.
Although drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, he was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers as part of pre-arranged deal between the two teams. In interviews, Bryant always noted that he idolized the Lakers as a kid, which made playing for the organization a dream come true.
Bryant played 20 seasons for the Lakers, establishing himself as one of the greats who was mentioned in the same breath as giants such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Wilt Chamberlain. Bryant led the team to five championships and ended up third all-time in league scoring before retiring in 2016. He was also an 18-time NBA, All-Star, ranking only behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who holds the record at 19.
His post-retirement endeavours included winning a 2018 Oscar for the short film Dear Basketball.
Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa and daughters Natalia, Bianca, and Capri.
Here's Bryant retirement ceremony from 2017.