NBA legend Kobe Bryant has been killed in a helicopter crash along with his teenage daughter.
The 41-year-old, who played for the LA Lakers throughout his glittering 20-year career, died after the private aircraft came down in California on Sunday morning.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people on board and officials told reporters at a news conference that there were no survivors.
Image: Bryant pictured with his daughter Gianna in Las Vegas in July last year
Image: LA county firefighters on the scene of the crash in Calabasas, California
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and coroner Dr Jonathan Lucas said the investigation into the crash would take time, but confirmed that there were eight passengers on the helicopter along with the pilot.
The crash site, located by a residential area in the city of Calabasas, was said to be “about the size of a football field” and had proven difficult for the authorities to reach.
News of Bryant’s death was first confirmed by the official Twitter account of the City of Calabasas, which said the helicopter went down in a field off Las Virgenes at around 10am local time.
Following the announcement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league had been left “devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna”.
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Mr Silver said the five-time NBA championship winner, who also claimed 18 NBA All-Star selections and two Olympic gold medals, had “inspired people around the world to pick up a basketball”.
“He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna,” he added.
Image: Kobe Bryant was 41
Image: Kobe Bryant elevates for a dunk against the Clippers
Other victims included Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa.
The California school, which described Bryant as a “friend”, said in a statement: “John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball. He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach.
“The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none – he treated them like family. Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy.”
Image: Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his final NBA game
Image: Kobe Bryant only ever played for the Los Angeles Lakers
According to NBC News, a teammate from Gianna’s basketball team and a parent of the teammate were also killed in the crash, some 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Smoke could be seen billowing from the wreckage for miles.
The Federal Aviation Authority said the aircraft was a Sikorsky S-76, but the cause of the accident is not yet known.
One eyewitness said: “This news is so shocking.
“I heard a helicopter and it just sounded very loud, like it was flying too low, and then I heard a loud thud and then you just hear nothing like a helicopter passed over us first and then crashed, so I didn’t hear the initial crash but I heard a helicopter flying too low”.
Image: LA county firefighters at the scene of the crash
Image: Authorities say the helicopter came down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10am (local) on Sunday
Image: People gather near the scene of the crash
Fans of the LA Lakers hero from across the worlds of sport, entertainment, politics and beyond have expressed their shock at Bryant’s sudden passing, as well as current and former basketball greats.
Bryant, who was born in Philadelphia in 1978, was drafted at number 13 by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, but was immediately traded to the Lakers.
He went on to enjoy a trophy-laden two decades with the club and became one of the sport’s most iconic figures.
Michael Jordan, widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all-time, has described Bryant as “one of the greats of the game and a creative force”.
Image: Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan facing off in 1997
Following his retirement in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, the Lakers retired the shirt numbers he had worn during his career – eight and 24.
At a ceremony in December 2017, the then franchise president Magic Johnson said: “We’re here to celebrate the greatest who has ever worn the purple and gold.”
He tweeted on Sunday that “the game of basketball and our city will never be the same without Kobe”.
Image: Bryant was a global superstar
Bryant’s final tweet came on Saturday night, when current Lakers talisman LeBron James overtook him in the all-time scoring ranking during a match in Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia.
Bryant tweeted: “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother.”
James has yet to comment publicly on Bryant’s death, which shocked NBA stars past and present.
Image: Fans have flocked to the Staples Center in Los Angeles to pay their respects
Image: Fans mourn the loss of the NBA legend outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles
Jordan said in a statement: “I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling.
“I loved Kobe – he was like a brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.
“Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball.”
Image: Fans gather near an image of Kobe Bryant shown on a large screen outside the Staples Center, LA
Image: A basketball lies amid flowers at a makeshift shrine at the Staples Center in LA/
Bryant’s legend beyond basketball has been apparent in the huge number of tributes that have poured in.
US President Donald Trump tweeted to say Bryant’s death was “terrible news”.
He added in a later statement: “Kobe Bryant, despite being one of the truly great basketball players of all time, was just getting started in life. He loved his family so much, and had such strong passion for the future.
“The loss of his beautiful daughter, Gianna, makes this moment even more devastating. Melania and I send our warmest condolences to Vanessa and the wonderful Bryant family. May God be with you all!”
His predecessor Barack Obama described Bryant as a “legend on the court” – and said “to lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents”.
Image: People gather near the scene, some clearly emotional after hearing the news about the crash
Image: Bryant was displayed on huge screens outside the Staples Center
People have gathered near the scene of the crash to mourn Bryant, as well as outside the Staples Center where he created so many memories for Lakers fans.
One wreath outside the arena read: “Kobe we love you RIP.”
Some of those in the crowd dabbed tears as others laid flowers and basketball shoes at the wreath.
The tragedy overshadowed the Grammy Awards, which were held at the Staples Center on Sunday night.
Host Alicia Keys said: “We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now. Because earlier today Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero.”
Source : Sky News