NBA superstar Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash

NBA superstar Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash

RNZ Wellington, January 27, 2020

Kobe Bryant (AFP Photo from RNZ)

US basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in the city of Calabasas, California, reports say.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the crash occurred shortly before 10 am local time in foggy conditions in the hills above Calabasas.

Bryant, 41, was travelling in a private helicopter when it crashed and burst into flames, according to reports.

US news organisation NBC is reporting that Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also died in the crash. A teammate of Gianna Bryant, a parent of the teammate and the pilot also died, NBC said.

The LA County Sheriff’s department said it believes nine people in total died in the crash.

A fire broke out and emergency personnel responded but found no survivors, according to TMZ.

TMZ reported that eyewitnesses to the crash heard the helicopter sputtering before it went down.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Most Valuable Player

Bryant won five NBA championships for the Lakers and amassed a number of accolades. He was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2007-08, a 15-time All-NBA selection, 18-time All-Star and 12-time All-Defensive team member. He twice was named the MVP of the NBA Finals and was the All-Star Game MVP four times.

Bryant played in 1346 career games and retired as the third-leading scorer in NBA history with 33,643 points. On Saturday night, Lakers star LeBron James passed him on the all-time list when he scored 29 points against the Philadelphia 76ers. Bryant stands behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and James on the all-time list.

A few hours later, Bryant perished in the crash.

Investigation launched

In a statement, the City of Calabasas said it was “with great sadness that we learn of the death of Kobe Bryant and four others in a helicopter crash. The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10:00 this morning. Nobody on the ground was hurt,” it added.

The US Federal Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76.

It said it was investigating the accident alongside the National Transportation Safety Board.

Birth of a Star

Born in Philadelphia, Bryant was only 17 when he was taken as the 13th overall draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA draft.

But he never played for the Hornets and immediately traded to the Lakers, where he played his entire career before retiring in 2016.

He won Olympic gold medals for the United States in 2008 and 2012 and among the candidates this year for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, have four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born in June 2019.

Bryant’s star power translated into the entertainment world as he mingled with show business stars in Los Angeles.

Oscar and allegation

In 2018 he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball.”

But he was also accused of sexual assault in 2003 by an employee at a Colorado hotel, tarnishing his reputation and leading to a media storm to cover his trial.

Bryant denied the claims and charges eventually were dropped after the woman refused to testify.

Bryant and his wife Vanessa filed for divorce in 2011 after 10 years of marriage but in 2013 the couple said they had reconciled their differences.

NBA players past and present took to Twitter to share their shock at the news.

Published under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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