NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on a steep hillside in dense morning fog in Southern California yesterday, his sudden death at age 41 touching off an outpouring of grief for a star whose celebrity transcended basketball.
The chopper went down in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Authorities said nine people were aboard the helicopter and presumed dead. Bryant, an all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, was among the victims.
Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna also was killed.
Other victims included John Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California; his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa. Payton Chester, a 13-year-old basketball player and her mother Sarah were also on board, as well as Christina Mauser, a coach.
Bryant was on his way to a travel basketball game with his daughter when the crash occurred.
Firefighters hiked in with medical equipment and hoses, and medical personnel rappelled to the site from a helicopter, but found no survivors, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.
Bryant, who lived south of Los Angeles in Orange County, often used helicopters to avoid Southern California’s notorious traffic. As a player, he traveled to practices and games by helicopter — a practice he continued after retirement.
On Saturday night, Bryant tweeted his congratulations to LeBron James after James surpassed him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Bryant was one of the most influential basketball players of the late 1990s and the early 21st century, racking up astronomical scoring totals while playing elite defense over a 20-season career that ended in 2016.
He was the son of the longtime professional basketball player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, who played for the Philadelphia 76ers, the San Diego Clippers and the Houston Rockets.
Bryant attended Lower Merion High School just outside Philadelphia and was drafted directly into the league.
He 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.
He teamed with Lakers teammate Shaqille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
After retirement, along with his work boosting women’s sports, 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.
News of the charismatic superstar’s death rocketed around the sports and entertainment worlds, with many taking to Twitter to register their shock, disbelief and anguish.
“Words can’t describe the pain I am feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me,” retired NBA great Michael Jordan said. “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.”
Bryant’s former teammate and friend Shaquille O’Neal said he was sick over the news and sent condolences to all of the victims’ families.
“There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of losing my niece Gigi & my brother @kobebryant,” he said in a tweet. “I love u and u will be missed.”
President Donald Trump tweeted that the crash was “terrible news.” Former President Barack Obama expressed his condolences to Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, and their family.
“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” Obama said on behalf of himself and his wife, Michelle. “To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents.”
NBA players were in tears during pregame warm-ups as crowds chanted “Kobe! Kobe!” Tiger Woods was unaware of the news during his final round at Torrey Pines in San Diego when he started hearing the gallery yell “Do it for Mamba,” referring to Bryant by his nickname.
A visibly shaken LeBron James wiped his eyes with tissues and walked away alone from the Lakers plane that had just landed in Southern California.
Bryant’s death was felt particularly painfully in Los Angeles, where he was unquestionably the most popular athlete and one of the city’s most beloved public figures. Hundreds of fans — many in Bryant jerseys and Lakers gear — spontaneously gathered at Staples Center and in the surrounding LA Live entertainment complex, weeping and staring at video boards with Bryant’s image.