Kobe Bryant killed in helicopter crash aged 41

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NBA great Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday in Calabasas, California, at the age of 41.

Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who was an aspiring basketball player, also died in the crash just before 10am local time in Calabasas, which is about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Bryant and his daughter were on their way to a basketball tournament when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter crashed. Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva said nine people in total were on board the helicopter – the pilot plus eight passengers – and there were no survivors.

The City of Calabasas tweeted that the aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes.

They added that nobody on the ground was hurt and that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) were investigating.

Former point guard Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers between 1996 and 2016 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time.

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Michael Jordan, six-time NBA champion, said: “I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing.

“Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe – he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much.

“He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver added in a statement: “The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.

“He will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to be the very best of their ability.

“He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of player, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.

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“We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organisation and the entire sports world.”

Kobe and his daughter Gianna

Bryant played his entire NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, helping them win five NBA championships. He also won two Olympic gold medals with Team USA.

Considered one of the greatest to ever play the sport, Bryant was selected in 18 All-Star games and was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the league in 2008.

Bryant, who was born in Philadelphia in 1978, was drafted at number 13 by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 but was immediately traded to the Lakers.

The Lakers retired both of Bryant’s shirt numbers – eight and 24 – in a ceremony in December 2017. Then-franchise president Magic Johnson said: “We’re here to celebrate the greatest who has ever worn the purple and gold.”

He stood third in the all-time NBA points list until Saturday night, when current Laker LeBron James overtook him.

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James had told NBA.com after the game: “I’m just happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greats to ever play.”

Bryant tweeted on Saturday night: “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother.”

Bryant was also an Oscar winner, landing an Academy Award for his short film Dear Basketball in 2018.

As news of Bryant’s death spread, thousands of mourners gathered at the Los Angeles Staples Center, home of the Lakers, to pay tribute to their former player.

Tributes to Bryant were also paid at NBA games on Sunday night. The game between the Toronto Raptors and the San Antonio Spurs saw both teams run out the 24-second shot clock – in honour of the Lakers’ former number 24.

Meanwhile, Brazil international footballer Neymar celebrated scoring a goal in Paris Saint-Germain’s football match at Lille by making a number 24 gesture with his fingers in honour of Bryant.

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