L.A. Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old Gianna Maria Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, according to multiple reports.
TMZ first broke the news that the retired basketball superstar and Oscar winner was one of nine people who died in the Sunday morning crash in the city of Calabasas in Los Angeles County. It later emerged that his daughter Gianna was also onboard.
The Los Angeles Times reported a helicopter “crashed and burst into flames” just before 10:00 a.m. local time amid foggy conditions. Bryant and his daughter were reportedly headed to Gianna’s basketball practice at Bryant’s Mamba Academy.
Nine people — eight passengers and a pilot — were on board the helicopter and all were killed in the crash, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Along with Kobe and Gianna Bryant on the helicopter were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa, girls basketball coach Christina Mauser, and three others who have yet to be identified. Investigators are still determining the cause of the crash.
Bryant followed in his father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant’s footsteps into the NBA. The elder Bryant played for the Philadelphia 76ers for four years alongside Julius Irving and George McGinnis. Kobe was drafted straight out of high school at just 18, making him one of the youngest players in NBA history — and his list of achievements didn’t stop there.
Bryant, who gave himself the nickname the Black Mamba, was a five-time NBA champion during his 20 years as a professional basketball player with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was also an 18-time All Star, two-time NBA finals Most Valuable Player (MVP), and named the NBA’s MVP in 2008. Bryant held the third-place spot on the all-time scoring list until he was surpassed by LeBron James just this week, a feat Bryant commended James for in the last tweet he sent.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
His reputation took a hit in 2003 when he was arrested in Colorado in connection to an investigation of a sexual assault complaint. A 19-year-old hotel employee alleged she was raped by Bryant in his hotel room the night before he was to have scheduled knee surgery. The Lakers star admitted to a consensual sexual encounter, which his accuser denied.
The case was dropped in 2004 after the accuser refused to testify. He apologized publicly for what transpired, accepting that while he believed the affair was consensual, he understands the accuser did not view the incident the same way.
His reputation recovered and he went on to play with the Lakers until retiring in 2016. Bryant also represented the United States at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics on the national basketball team, bringing home two gold medals.
Bryant also took home the gold at the 2018 Oscars when he won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short for the film Dear Basketball. The animated short is based on a letter he wrote announcing his retirement from basketball in 2015.
Gianna, Bryant’s second-oldest daughter, seemed to be headed in the same direction as her father and grandfather before her untimely death. Bryant enjoyed spending his retirement coaching Gianna, who he said had dreams of playing basketball for the University of Connecticut’s women’s team, the Huskies.
“I can control my own schedule,” Kobe told Access Hollywood in 2018. “I can coach my daughter, I can be present at all of my eldest daughter’s volleyball games, I drop them off in the morning, I pick them up in afternoon. Zero — I have no inclination and no desire to play basketball. Just none… The basketball gene I’ve completely and fully passed off to Gianna. She’s got it.”
Bryant and wife Vanessa married in 2001. In addition to Gianna, they shared three other daughters: Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, born just this past June.