The Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. Mr. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was 41.
The smooth shooting guard, who patterned his game after Michael Jordan, entered the NBA straight out of high school in 1996. By his second season, he had earned his first of 18 all-star selections. By his fourth season, he had teamed with Shaquille O’Neal to win the first of three consecutive championships.
Although his partnership with O’Neal didn’t last, Mr. Bryant went on to greater heights after their 2004 parting. He won two scoring titles in the years that followed, and he famously scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, the second-highest single-game total in NBA history. Mr. Bryant’s 2008 pairing with Pau Gasol produced two more championships in 2009 and 2010, with Mr. Bryant winning Finals MVP honors both times.
A famous competitor is known for championing his ruthless “Mamba Mentality,” Mr. Bryant suffered a career-altering Achilles’ injury in 2013. He recovered to play three more seasons, retiring in 2016 after 20 seasons with the Lakers. In the last game of his career, Mr. Bryant scored 60 points in perhaps the most memorable career finale in NBA history.
In retirement, Mr. Bryant has written children’s books and produced animated stories, while also pursuing mixed media and business projects with his Granity Studios. Mr. Bryant and his daughter Gianna have occasionally attended Lakers game this season. Just last month, they sat courtside for the Lakers’ victory over the Dallas Mavericks and took photographs with rising star Luka Doncic after the game.
Mr. Bryant, who retired as the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer with 33,643 points, was expected to be inducted to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on the first ballot this summer. He was a headlining member of a star-studded class that also includes Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.
Kobe Bean Bryant was born in Philadelphia on Aug. 23, 1978. His first name was inspired by the high-end beef served at a local Japanese steakhouse, his middle name by the nickname given to his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, a professional basketball player who played with teams including the Philadelphia 76ers.
Mr. Bryant grew up in Italy, where his father played basketball for several years after leaving the NBA, and in suburban Philadelphia, where Mr. Bryant dominated as a high school athlete, leading his team to a state championship. Years later, according to the Orange County Register, stories circulated in the community of how he would practice in his driveway until midnight and beginning at 6 a.m. on snow days. Mr. Bryant entered the NBA immediately upon his graduation from high school in 1996, becoming one of the youngest players in the league’s history.
Update: Kobe Bryant’s daughter Gianna also killed in the helicopter crash
Kobe Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter was also killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning that claimed the life of the legendary basketball player.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Sunday morning that five people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. There were no survivors. There was initial confusion about who was aboard the helicopter, as plenty of misinformation was spread — largely stemming from a false report from ABC.
After initially saying Kobe was survived by his wife Vanessa and four daughters, TMZ later reported that Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was also killed in the crash. TMZ reported that Kobe and Gianna were on their way to Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski later said Kobe and Gianna were on the helicopter, as well as another player and parent.
The Los Angeles Times says the crash occurred shortly before 10 a.m. near Las Virgenes Road, south of Agoura Road. The helicopter crashed into the hills in Calabasas amid foggy conditions.
While Kobe’s oldest daughter, Natalia, plays volleyball, Gianna was an emerging basketball player and had an amazing highlight video.
Bryant was known for taking a helicopter as his method of transportation going from his home in Orange County to Staples Center in Los Angeles when he played. He was a five-time NBA champion, 18-time All-Star, two-time NBA Finals MVP and NBA MVP. He is regarded as one of the greatest NBA players in history, as well as one of the most influential.