Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time and an internationally recognizable NBA superstar, died in a helicopter crash Sunday outside Los Angeles. He was 41 years old.
Bryant was flying with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people when the helicopter went down “in a remote field” in Calabasas, Calif. around 10 a.m., according to the Associated Press.
All nine people aboard the helicopter were killed, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. But pending official word from the coroner, he would not confirm the passengers’ identities. They were named by family and local news reports as Gianna’s basketball teammate Alyssa Altobelli, her mother, Keri, and her father, John, a baseball coach. Also killed in the crash were Christina Mauser, a school basketball assistant coach; Payton Chester, another teammate of Gianna’s, and Payton’s mother Sarah. The helicopter pilot, named in local reports as Ara Zobayan, was also killed.
Before retiring from the NBA in 2016, Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for the entirety of his two-decade career, winning the NBA Finals five times.
The fourth-leading scorer in NBA history with 33,643 career points, Bryant was a five-time NBA champion with the Lakers and an 18-time NBA All-Star who was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2008. He was twice an NBA Finals MVP and an 11-time All-NBA First Team selection. The two-time NBA scoring champion was just as renowned for his ability on the other end of the floor, as he earned nine selections to the NBA All-Defensive First Team over the course of his career.
The Black Mamba was in the news on Saturday as Lakers’ player LeBron James surpassed Bryant as no. 3 all-time NBA scorer. Bryant remains the fourth-highest career NBA scorer. In a tweet the night before his death, he congratulated James. “Continuing to move the game forward,” he said of James.
Bryant also won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2018 for Dear Basketball, which he wrote and narrated.
In his final transmission, the pilot of a helicopter told air traffic control he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer, the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday.
The Lakers and the Clippers will not play as planned on Tuesday night, the N.B.A. said Monday, as the players and others throughout basketball grieve the death of Bryant, a star with the Lakers for two decades.
In a statement, the league said the game had been postponed to a later date, which was not immediately announced, “out of respect for the Lakers organization.”
Soon after the league’s announcement, the Lakers expressed gratitude for the public outpouring of support.
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I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had! I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! 😢😢😢😢💔. Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation💜💛 and it’s my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life❤️🙏🏾 #Gigi4Life❤️🙏🏾
A number of tributes to Bryant took place around the league as games went on following the news, but Young’s was particularly touching. While he usually wears No. 11, Young came out for Sunday’s game against the Washington Wizards wearing No. 8 — one of Bryant’s jersey numbers.
…This S*** can’t be real… this the first moment I was able to meet Gianna Maria, she’s been to only 3 games this year… 2 of them were mine… She told me I was her favorite player to watch🙏🏽 I can’t believe this😢😭
Rest Easy Gigi❤️ pic.twitter.com/IfDrE9Gjlv
— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) January 26, 2020
Devin Booker was emotional as the Memphis crowd chanted Kobe’s name pic.twitter.com/qutGVxrlaC
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 27, 2020
Coincidentally, both Trae Young and Devin Booker played their hearts out, with a performance too surreal to be true.
Booker logged a game-high 36 points in the Phoenix Suns’ loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, while Young’s 45 points were the high mark in the Atlanta Hawks’ win over the Washington Wizards. Both players took 24 shots on the night, the same number Bryant famously wore for a portion of his career. The two point totals add up to 81, the same number of points Bryant dropped in one of the best performances of his historic career.
Young also put up 14 assists in one of his better outings of the season. The last player to record a 45-point double-double with under 25 field-goal attempts is none other than Kobe himself. Bryant accomplished the feat in December 2006 against the Wizards.
“He had that DNA that very few athletes can ever have.”
Doc Rivers on Kobe Bryant. pic.twitter.com/kSS7sjKaI1
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 26, 2020
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban announced that the organization would be retiring No. 24 in honor of Bryant.
“We are shocked and saddened by the devastating news of the passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” Cuban said in a statement. “Kobe was an ambassador for our game, a decorated legend and a global icon. Above all, he was a loving and dedicated father.
“Kobe’s legacy transcends basketball, and our organization has decided that the number 24 will never again be worn by a Dallas Maverick… Our hearts go out to all the lives lost and the families impacted by this terrible tragedy. We send our thoughts and prayers to Vanessa and the family, the Lakers organization and Kobe Bryant fans everywhere.”
And perhaps, one of the most important players in Bryant’s life – Shaquille’O’Neal. O’Neal was named NBA Finals MVP in all three of his title runs with Bryant.
There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW pic.twitter.com/pigHywq3c1
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 26, 2020
RIP Kobe Bryant 1978-2020.
Sports icon. pic.twitter.com/aOTWyPtyD3
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 26, 2020
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020
More than one million people have backed a petition to use Kobe Bryant’s image as a new official NBA logo. The current logo was designed by Alan Siegel, and features the silhouette of another great LA Lakers player Jerry West, who is 81 years old.Leave a comment