NBA legend Kobe Bryant died Sunday when a helicopter he was riding in crashed and burst into flames in thick fog, killing all nine people on board including his teenage daughter.
According to reports, Bryant, 41, was travelling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when their Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. They had been expected at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist, is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history, an iconic figure who became one of the faces of his sport during a glittering two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dozens of firefighters and paramedics battled across steep terrain to reach the flaming wreckage at the crash site but found no survivors, officials said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said an 18-strong team of investigators would be sent to California to probe the causes of the crash.
Bryant’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world and left fans stunned. Tributes to Bryant flooded in from former US presidents, pop stars and athletes from different sports. Local celebrities including Mehwish Hayat, Mahira Khan and Hamza Ali Abbasi mourned Bryant’s death.
His complete devotion to his daughter also made headlines. He is quoted as saying “The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans would come up to me and she’ll (Gianna) be standing next to me and they’ll be like, ‘You’ve gotta have a boy … You gotta have somebody to carry on your tradition, the legacy.’ “She’s like, ‘Oy, I got this. Don’t need no boy for that.’ I’m like, that’s right. Yes, you do, you got this.”
Son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, the Lakers legend was born in Philadelphia in 1978. The five-time NBA champion began his career in 1996 straight out of high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016. He also was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helping spark the US squad of NBA stars to titles in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.
Bryant bowed out of the NBA in 2016, scoring 60 points in his final appearance before his adoring fans at the Staples Center. It was a fairytale farewell to a sporting career that had begun two decades earlier.