Former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday. He was 41.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff said on Twitter that five people died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, about 65km (40 miles) northwest of Los Angeles, and there were no survivors. It did not identify the victims.
“It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Kobe Bryant and four others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas,” the city of Calabasas announced on its Twitter feed.
First responders put out the flames of the crash site, the sheriff’s department said, posting a picture of a fire truck and smoke emerging from the brush in a ravine.
Bryant was known to use a helicopter for travel dating to his days as a star player when he commuted to games in a Sikorsky S-76 chopper.
The US Federal Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76, saying in a statement the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate.
It was unclear if family members were on the helicopter. Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, have four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri.
A five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant was considered one of the greatest basketball players ever.
He 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.”
Official statement from FAA. https://t.co/7qezQwz1Bz
— City of Calabasas (@CityofCalabasas) January 26, 2020
Named Kobe by his parents after they spotted the popular Japanese cut of beef on a restaurant menu shortly before his birth, Bryant was a five-time NBA champion having won titles in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010.
He was drafted out of high school with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets but was traded shortly after to the Lakers for Serbian Vlade Divac.
He appeared in 17 All-Star games, was named the Most Valuable Player for the 2007-08 regular season and landed MVP honours in the 2009 and 2010 finals when he led the Lakers to consecutive championships.
Bryant also won gold medals with the US basketball team at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
He was sidelined nearly eight months in 2013 with a torn Achilles tendon, then played just six games during the 2013-14 season because of a severe knee injury.
‘Put the work in’
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 US 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.”
Bryant was a basketball superstar 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.
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 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game.