CALIFORNIA (US): The basketball icon of US National Basketball Association-Kobe Bryant along with his 13-year old daughter died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
The five-time NBA champion who left a legacy that spanned 20 years in professional sports and a growing second career as an investor was travelling in a helicopter along with his daughter and seven others and the chopper slammed into a hillside in Calabasas, California.
According to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Bryant and other passengers were traveling in a Sikorsky S-76B, a popular helicopter for commercial purposes that has been used for decades. The helicopter identified by flight-tracking website Flightradar24 is owned by Island Express Holding Corp. in Van Nuys, California, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
He was 41. Also among the victims were his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, another parent and a teammate from Gianna’s travel sports team.
“The NBA family is devastated,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. And in a sign that Bryant’s impact went deep into the city where he made his career, Los Angeles Mayor Mayor Eric Garcetti said he “will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes.”
Flight radar 24 said preliminary data indicated the helicopter had taken off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles, at 9:06 a.m. local time. It flew over Los Angeles and Glendale, then over the San Fernando Valley before turning toward the rugged Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu.
In its last recorded position at 9:45 a.m., the helicopter was at 1,700 feet altitude and flying at 176 miles per hour. Photos of the crash site show that it hit an undeveloped hillside.
The final tweet on Bryant’s personal account referred to James’s achievement on the court this weekend passing him as No. 3 on the all-time NBA scoring list.
During his 20-year pro career Bryant won -- in addition to his NBA titles -- two gold medals in the Olympics, two NBA Finals MVPs and a regular season MVP in 2008. He led the league in scoring twice and retired with 33,643 points -- third on the league’s all-time scoring list until he was passed this weekend by LeBron James. He wore two jerseys for the Lakers -- No. 8 and No. 24 -- and the team retired both.
A 6-foot-6 small forward, Bryant was a gifted scorer whose intensity and work ethic became lore throughout the sports world. He entered the NBA in 1996 directly out of high school, and as the youngest player in the league had an almost-immediate impact for the Lakers. At the time the team was looking for the next star to continue a run of legends that included Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson.
The rape case created a complex legacy for Bryant, who repaired his reputation both on the court, and off it, becoming a celebrated investor and businessman. He co-founded a venture capital firm in 2013 and in 2018 won an Academy Award for best animated short for 2017’s “Dear Basketball,” based on a poem he wrote announcing his retirement.
Bryant’s immense popularity, including overseas in China, made him a valuable endorser even after he finished playing. No partnership was as big as his long-time relationship with Nike Inc. Bryant signed with the company in 2003 and became one of the sneaker-maker’s most important athlete endorsers. Nike built an entire apparel line around Bryant, and released more than 10 signature Kobe shoes.
“He was one of the greatest athletes of his generation and has had an immeasurable impact on the world of sport and the community of basketball,” the company said in a statement.