American basketball star Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and three others were killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday, his sudden death at age 41 touching off an outpouring of grief for a star whose celebrity transcended basketball.
The chopper went down in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Authorities confirmed that five people died, with no survivors.
Bryant, an all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, was among the victims, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
A different person familiar with the case confirmed that Bryant´s 13-year-old daughter Gianna also was killed.
Word of Bryant´s sudden death at age 41 rocketed around the sports and entertainment worlds, with many taking to Twitter to register their shock, disbelief, and dismay.
“There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through,” tweeted Lakers teammate Shaquille O´Neal, who won three NBA titles with Bryant. “(at)Kobe Bryant I love u and u will be missed. … IM SICK RIGHT NOW.”
“Man I don´t even know where to start,” tweeted Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid. “I started playing ball because of KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched the ball before that and that final was the turning point of my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I´m so FREAKING SAD right now!!!!”
Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic.
He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night when the Lakers´ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant´s hometown.
“Continuing to move the game forward (at)KingJames,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet. “Much respect my brother.”
Bryant had one of the greatest careers in recent NBA history and became one of the game´s most popular players as the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers franchise. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA´s All-Defensive teams.
He teamed with Shaquille O´Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game.
Investigating the accident
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.
“They will look at man, machine and environment,” said Gary C. Robb, an aviation attorney in Kansas City who wrote a textbook on helicopter-crash litigation.
“They will look at the pilot – was there any indication of fatigue, any indication of a training issue? They´ll scour his or her record,” Robb said. “They will look at this helicopter from stem to stern. They will take the engine to the NTSB metallurgical laboratory outside Washington, D.C., and examine it to see if there was something that malfunctioned in flight.”
Investigators will also consider what role might have been played by weather, terrain, radio towers or bird strikes, he said.
Robb said he has handled many cases involving Sikorsky S-76 crashes and regards the machine as having a good reputation.
“It is generally regarded as a good helicopter with a good safety record,” he said, “but parts fail, parts break. Anything can happen.”
Along with his work boosting women´s sports, Bryant opened a production company and entered the entertainment field in retirement. He won an Academy Award in 2018 for his contributions to “Dear Basketball,” an animated short about his relationship to the game. He also produced content for ESPN.
In 2003, Bryant was charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He had said the two had consensual sex. Prosecutors later dropped the felony sexual assault charge against Bryant at the request of the accuser.