Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant died in a helicopter crash in California, according to a report by TMZ.
Bryant, 41, and his daughter were on a flight over the Los Angeles county suburb of Calabasas when the helicopter reportedly crashed. The LA County Sheriff’s office confirmed in a tweet that five people were on board the flight when it crashed and there were no survivors. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed Bryant and his daughter were on board. Reports indicate the helicopter was taking Bryant and the others to his daughter’s basketball game.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department held a press conference at 2:30 p.m. local time, where Sheriff Alex Villaneuva stated that there were no survivors, adding that nine people were on board. He stated that the identities of the individuals would not be revealed at this time, and that a later statement by the coroner would identify the individuals after next of kin were notified. He added that speculation on these identities was irresponsible, and asked for patience moving forward.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement saying Bryant “one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game.”
The Los Angeles Times reported the crash happened in the hills over Calabasas shortly after 10 a.m. local time, and that no homes or other bystanders were affected by the crash.
Bryant brought the Lakers back to NBA supremacy
Bryant entered the NBA as part of one of the most lopsided trades in league history. After jumping straight to the pros from high school, he was selected with the 13th overall pick of the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He never spent a single minute in teal, instead becoming part of a pre-draft trade that shipped him to the Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac.
In Los Angeles, Bryant helped change the trajectory of one of the league’s most storied franchises. He won five world titles along the way.
Bryant’s arrival in LA gave the Lakers a Hall of Fame foundation. Shaquille O’Neal’s first season with the franchise coincided with Bryant’s rookie year and together the pair would form one of the most devastating inside-out duos the NBA has ever seen. They’d play eight seasons together. In that span, they earned 13 all-star bids (out of a possible 14, thanks to 1999’s cancelled NBA All-Star Game), made eight straight playoff appearances, and won three straight world championships between 2000-2002.
The silky smooth shooting guard with the persistent heads-up defense was a revelation alongside his bulky running mate, but he wouldn’t become his truest, ball-dominant self until O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004. That move signified owner Jerry Buss’s desire to build around Bryant, and officially marked the transition from the Lakers’ binary star system into a universe that revolved explicitly around Bryant.
Bryant averaged nearly 29 points per game in his first nine seasons without O’Neal, earning NBA scoring crowns in 2006 and 2007. More importantly, he proved he could lead Los Angeles to the league’s highest heights without his dominant center anchoring the paint. The Lakers won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, ousting Orlando and longtime rival Boston to give the high-volume guard five NBA championship rings — one more than O’Neal.
In the process, Bryant piled up enough accolades to fill several mansions’ worth of mantle space. He was an 18-time All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA honoree (with 11 first-team nods), a 12-time NBA All-Defensive team selection, a two-time NBA Finals MVP, and a four-time NBA All-Star Game MVP. His game was so respected in LA that the Lakers retired both numbers he wore in his career — No. 8 and No. 24.
Bryant left behind a complicated off-court legacy
Bryant was arrested in July 2003 in connection with a sexual assault investigation filed by a 19-year-old employee of an Eagle, Colo. hotel. Bryant was accused of rape and would later admit to having a sexual encounter with the employee, though denied the event was non-consensual.
The criminal case was dropped by local investigators more than a year later after the victim refused to testify in court. Bryant made the following statement shortly afterward:
First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure. I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colorado.
I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman. No money has been paid to this woman. She has agreed that this statement will not be used against me in the civil case. 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. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.
A civil suit followed, which Bryant settled out of court before hearings could take place.
In the years that followed, Bryant dedicated himself to his family, notably championing the youth basketball efforts of his daughters.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.