NBA legend Kobe Bryant died Sunday morning when his private helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. There were nine people on board, and nobody survived the crash.
His wife Vanessa was not among those on board.
TMZ Sports was the first to report the shocking news. Kobe Bryant used a helicopter to travel for years. Even during the time when he played for the Lakers. He often commuted from Newport Beach, CA to the STAPLES Center in DTLA in his Sikorsky S-76 chopper.
Bryant’s second-oldest daughter, Gianna, 13, was also among those killed in the crash.
John Altobelli, the Southern California’s Orange Coast College baseball team head coach, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa, who was Gianna’s basketball teammate, were also killed in the crash, according to published reports.
Kobe Bryant is survived by his wife and three of their four daughters — Natalia and Bianca and their newborn Capri.
Kobe Bryant: a remarkable talent
After being selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the No. 13 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft at age 17, Kobe Bryant was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac. General manager Jerry West, the architect of the great L.A. teams in the 1980s, was convinced that Kobe had the “it” factor to be an NBA star based on exceptional pre-draft workout performance.
Those workouts were one-on-one drills against former Lakers defensive standout Michael Cooper.
“He’s better than anybody on our team right now,” West said of Kobe at the time.
Championship building blocks
Paired with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to three straight titles in 2000, 2001 and ’02. Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan’s coach during the Chicago Bulls dynasty in the 1990s, found a way to mesh the polar-opposite personalities of Shaq and Kobe.
It worked for a few years, but their personal feud grew out of control.
The Lakers traded O’Neal to the Miami Heat in July 2004, breaking up the team’s fragile but brilliant nucleus.
Return to glory
With Kobe Bryant playing the starring role and Jackson back in charge after stepping down in 2005, the Lakers captured two more titles, in 2009 and 2010.
With five titles on his resume, he proved to be a singular star in the post-Jordan era, outshining Tim Duncan in terms of charisma and popularity.
Jackson reacts to the news
“The crash was a tragedy for multiple families. My heart goes out to Vanessa and the families that lost loved ones,” Jackson said. “Kobe was a chosen one — special in many ways to many people. Our relationship as coach/player transcended the norm He went beyond the veil.”
Kobe Bryant was an 18-time All-Star, one fewer than appearance than all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was a 12-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection and an 11-time All-NBA First Team selection.
He earned two scoring titles (2005-06, 2006-07) and four All-Star Game MVP awards, tying Bob Pettit for the record. He also captured the 2007-08 MVP award, and a pair of Finals MVP honors in 2009 and 2010.
When he retired in 2016 after scoring 33,643 points, Kobe was third on the all-time scoring list, trailing Kareem (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928). Current Lakers superstar LeBron James surpassed Kobe last week.
Kobe’s 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006 was the second-highest individual output in an NBA contest. Only Philadelphia Warriors center Wilt Chamberlain’s unbreakable NBA record of 100 points in a game topped what Kobe did.
Bryant’s famous intensity and physical fitness carried him to great heights in his chosen profession.
He never lost that competitive drive.
Del Harris, his first pro coach, weighed in on Kobe Bryant’s professional demeanor in 2017.
“Kobe didn’t care about nightlife or anything else,” Harris said in 2017, according to The New York Times.
“He only had one interest. His only focus was to be the best that he could be. And in his mind, that meant challenging Michael Jordan.”
Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his final NBA game on April 13, 2016, against the Utah Jazz.
It was a fitting exclamation point for the future Hall of Famer’s unique, splendid career.
This summer, he will be eligible for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Two retired jerseys
For 10 seasons, Kobe wore jersey No. 8. Then he switched to 24 for the latter half of his career.
In a unique twist, the Lakers retired both jersey numbers in December 2017.
Kobe Bryant starred for Team USA at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games, winning a pair of gold medals. In a vintage Kobe performance, he scored 13 of his 20 points against Spain in the 2008 title match in Beijing.
Lakers legend Magic Johnson paid tribute to Kobe Bryant after the star’s death.
“My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone,” Johnson tweeted. “It’s hard to accept.”