You are here

Basketball star Kobe Bryant, four others dead in helicopter crash

rk_KobeBryant_270120.jpg
Kobe Bryant, who won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and was considered one of basketball's all-time greats, was killed in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday morning, officials said. He was 41.

[NEW YORK] Kobe Bryant, who won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and was considered one of basketball's all-time greats, was killed in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday morning, officials said. He was 41.

Four other people died in the crash in a remote field around 10am (1800 GMT) about 40 miles (65 kilometres) north-west of central Los Angeles, the city of Calabasas said on Twitter.

There were no survivors. Several major US media outlets reported that Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was also on the helicopter. A teammate from Bryant's daughter's basketball team, a parent of the teammate, and the pilot were also killed, NBC News reported.

"This is a moment that leaves us struggling to find words that express the magnitude of shock and sorrow we are all feeling right now, and I am keeping Kobe's entire family in my prayers at this time of unimaginable grief," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.

Shocked fans gathered outside the Staples Center arena in Los Angeles around a wreath with a message: "Kobe we love you RIP." Some in the crowd dabbed tears as others laid flowers and basketball sneakers at the wreath.

First responders put out the flames at the crash site, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department said, posting a picture of a fire truck and smoke emerging from the brush in a ravine.

Bryant had been known to use a helicopter for travel since his days as a player for the Los Angeles Lakers, when he commuted to games in a Sikorsky S-76 chopper, the celebrity news website TMZ said.

The Federal Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76, saying in a statement that the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate.

18-TIME ALL-STAR

Bryant played all 20 of his National Basketball Association seasons with the Lakers, winning five championships and being named an all-star 18 times.

He was the third-leading scorer in league history with 33,643 points, until LeBron James passed him on Saturday.

Nicknamed the Black Mamba, he became eligible to enter the Hall of Fame this year and is certain to be selected when the 2020 class is enshrined.

Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, had four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born in June 2019.

Bryant's star power translated into the entertainment world as he mingled with show-business stars in Los Angeles.

In 2018, he won an Oscar for his animated short film "Dear Basketball".

But he was also accused of sexual assault in 2003 by an employee at a Colorado hotel, tarnishing his reputation and leading to a media storm to cover his trial.

Bryant denied the allegations and charges eventually were dropped after the woman refused to testify.

Bryant and his wife filed for divorce in 2011 after 10 years of marriage, but the couple said in 2013 they had reconciled.

Bryant's father, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, also played in the NBA, and Kobe demonstrated from an early age he would surpass his father's accomplishments.

The Philadelphia native went straight from high school to the NBA, skipping the college ranks. Since he was still only 17 years old, his parents needed to co-sign his first contract with the Lakers and he played his first game with the team shortly after turning 18 in 1996.

He also won two Olympic gold medals, part of the US team in 2008 and 2012.

He retired after the 2015-2016 NBA season because of mounting injuries. In recent years, he had focused his attention on philanthropy and business ventures.

REUTERS