NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter were among several people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Bryant was 41.
Bryant was on his way to a travel basketball game with his daughter Gianna Bryant, who was 13, when the helicopter crashed, sources told Wojnarowski. Those aboard the helicopter also included another player and parent. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a news conference later Sunday that there were no survivors and according to the flight manifest there were nine people on board the helicopter.
Los Angeles County fire chief Daryl Osby said that the FAA is on the scene and will work with the NTSB to investigate the crash. He said that authorities will not release names of victims until they are identified and next of kin notified.
A source told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk that the Lakers found out about Bryant’s death while on the team plane flying home from Philadelphia.
“Everyone is in shock,” a team source said.
The crash comes one day after Bryant was passed by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. As late as 10:39 p.m. ET on Saturday, Bryant was active on social media, congratulating James on Twitter during the Lakers’ 108-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
James inscribed his sneakers with “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB” in gold marker before the game, showing respect for Bryant, an 18-time All-Star with the Lakers who is eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame this year. All week, in the lead-up to the milestone, he was quick to laud Bryant.
“It’s another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school,” James said. “Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration. It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So, just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it’s very humbling and it’s dope.
“Kobe’s a legend, that’s for damn sure.”
A 6-foot-6 small forward with the ability to swing up front and play point or shooting guard, Bryant entered the NBA straight out of high school. In 1996, he became the youngest player in NBA history.
He won five NBA titles in his time with the Lakers, as well as two Olympic gold medals playing for the United States. Now fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 33,643 points, Bryant won two NBA Finals MVP awards and one NBA regular-season MVP nod in 2008.
Shaquille O’Neal, who won three titles with Bryant in Los Angeles, posted on Instagram: “There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of loosing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you brother and you will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW !”
This week marked the 14-year anniversary of Bryant’s 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors, still the second-most points ever scored in an NBA game behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100.
“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals. But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. 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.
“We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization and the entire sports world.”
The National Basketball Players Association said: “We are stunned and saddened by the news of the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant. Words cannot express his impact on our Players, the NBA and the game of basketball. This is a monumental loss for the entire basketball community and our hearts are quite simply broken. We send love and prayers out to his wife Vanessa and the entire family.”
Bryant passed his childhood idol, Michael Jordan, on the all-time scoring list in 2014. Jordan embraced Bryant, fueling his passion for the game. The two had a memorable matchup in Bryant’s first All-Star Game selection in New York’s Madison Square Garden, and later, when Jordan played for the Washington Wizards, Bryant scored 42 points in a half (en route to 55 for the game) against him.
“He knows how much I’ve learned from him,” Bryant said of Jordan in 2014, “from the other legends and him in particular.”
A Philadelphia native, Bryant was selected No. 13 overall in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets before being traded to the Lakers. He wore both No. 8 and 24 with the Lakers, both of which were retired by the franchise. He was credited with changing how NBA front offices viewed wing talent coming out of high school into the draft.
“I’m happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant. One of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers,” James said Saturday night. “The man got two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It’s just crazy.”
Bryant is the only player in NBA history to have multiple jerseys retired by a single franchise.
On Nov. 29, 2015, Bryant announced that he intended to retire at the end of the season, which launched a farewell tour for the ages around the NBA. He played in 66 games that season for Los Angeles, averaging 17.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
Nichols: Kobe loved being a dad
Rachels Nichols discusses Kobe Bryant’s relationship with his children, including his daughter Gianna, who died in a helicopter crash with Kobe.
In his final game, on April 13, 2016, he scored 60 points, leading the Lakers past the Utah Jazz 101-96.
Another Lakers legend, Magic Johnson, also said he was “heartbroken.”
While Bryant was an unqualified star on the court, he did have controversy off it. He was accused of sexual assault in Colorado in 2003. The criminal case was dropped the next year, but Bryant still issued an apology. He said that he considered the encounter to be consensual but recognized that the woman “did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.”
Bryant married Vanessa Laine Bryant in 2001, and they had four daughters together. His father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, is also a former NBA player.
A moment of silence was held at the first NBA game of the day Sunday — the Nuggets’ contest against the Rockets in Denver. In San Antonio, after the initial tip-off, the Raptors and Spurs each allowed 24 seconds to run off the clock on the first two possessions without playing.
Hundreds of people gathered at a makeshift memorial outside the Staples Center Sunday afternoon.
Bryant transitioned into a post-basketball life that was far from retirement. He won an Academy Award in 2018, taking home an Oscar for the animated short, “Dear Basketball.” Bryant also created a children’s book series, inspired by his love for Harry Potter, which became a New York Times bestseller.
Colin Storm was in his living room in Calabasas when he heard “what sounded like a low-flying airplane or helicopter.”
“t was very foggy so we couldn’t see anything,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “But then we heard some sputtering, and then a boom.”
The fog then cleared a bit and Storm could see smoke rising from the hillside in front of his home.
Juan Bonilla of Calabasas said he was working on his roof Sunday morning when he heard a helicopter flying low nearby. He said he thought it was a sheriff’s helicopter on a training mission. He heard nothing amiss with the engine or rotors and said he did not see any mechanical issue with the chopper. It was foggy Sunday morning, but he said visibility didn’t seem to be low at the time of the crash.
Osby said that firefighters found a quarter mile brush fire when they hiked into the scene. Paramedics were lowered from a helicopter.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the downed chopper was a Sikorsky S-76.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a “go team” of investigators to the site. The NTSB typically issues a preliminary report within about 10 days that will give a rough summary of what investigators have learned. A ruling on the cause can take a year or more.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Drafted 13th overall in 1996 out of Lower Merion High School outside of Philadelphia, Bryant was a five-time NBA champion, a two-time NBA Finals MVP and the 2008 NBA MVP. The 18-time All Star retired in 2016 after 20 seasons in the league, all with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Tributes were pouring in from Laker Nation following the tragic loss of the 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame nominee.
Players, coaches and executives across basketball — many of whom shared the court with Bryant during his career — shared their condolences on social media.
Man I don’t even know where to start I started playing ball because of KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched ball before that and that finals was the turning point of my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I’m so FREAKING SAD right now!!!!
The Clippers mourn Kobe Bryant, an icon in this city and this sport, who inspired teammates and opponents with his drive and determination. Kobe left an indelible mark on the world. His family, friends, fans and the Laker organization are in our prayers. We will miss him.