The retired Los Angeles Lakers star who won five championships with the team and was often compared to Michael Jordan, died Sunday in a helicopter crash. He was 41.
Officials confirm to Variety that Bryant was a passenger on board a helicopter that crashed in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas.
Bryant was reportedly traveling in his own private helicopter when it crashed. Four other people were killed.
According to TMZ, Bryant’s 13 year-old daughter Gianna also died in the crash. They were reportedly en route to her basketball practice in Thousand Oaks.
Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fatal crash. There was extensive fog in the Los Angeles area on Sunday morning.
The night before, LeBron James passed Bryant as the third-highest scorer ever in the National Basketball League. Bryant tweeted his congratulations to James following the game in Philadelphia, which also happens to be Bryant’s hometown.
Drafted in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets out of Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia — a rarity in the NBA at the time for a player to skip college — Bryant was traded to the Lakers where he became a fan favorite overnight. He wore both numbers 8 and 24 for the Lakers, where he spent his entire 20-year career, and had both jerseys retired following his NBA exit in 2016.
An 18-time NBA All-Star and widely considered to be one of the greatest scorers of all time, Bryant was voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008 and went on to win two gold medals with the USA Men’s Basketball team in 2008 and 2012. Alongside Shaquille O’Neal and legendary coach Phil Jackson, Bryant helped revitalize Hollywood’s favorite sports team in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Lakers moved from the Inglewood Forum to their current home of the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Bryant’s highest scoring total for a single game came in 2002 when he put up 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. Only Wilt Chamberlain, at 100 points, had a bigger single-game in NBA history.
Despite all of the “Ko-Be!” chants and on-court accolades, Bryant was no stranger to controversy. In 2003, he was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel employee in a Colorado hotel room. The case was dropped the next year and Bryant issued a famous apology alongside his wife, Vanessa. “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did,” he said.