LOS ANGELES, USA, January 27 ------ NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in suburban Los Angeles on Sunday, January 26 (Monday, January 27, Manila time), multiple American news outlets reported. Los Angeles County Sheriff officials confirmed 9 people died and there were no survivors from the morning crash in foggy conditions on a hillside in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. The helicopter was described as a Sikorsky S-76, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said. TMZ was the first US outlet to report that the retired 41-year-old Los Angeles Lakers icon was among the fatalities. His death was later confirmed by ESPN, CNN, and the Los Angeles Times, citing unidentified sources.
Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria-Onore was also reportedly killed in the fatal crash. Early reports of Bryant's death sent shockwaves throughout the world, with fellow stars and celebrities expressing disbelief at the news. "This can't be true," Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic wrote on Twitter. "No please." The incident came only hours after Bryant was eclipsed by current Lakers star LeBron James for No. 3 on the all-time NBA scoring list. Bryant's final post on social media had been a tweet congratulating James on surpassing him. Drafted out of high school, Bryant spent all of his 20 NBA seasons with the Lakers and helped the storied franchise win 5 championships. He also captured two Olympic gold medals with Team USA in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games.
The man called as the "Black Mamba" won an NBA Most Valuable Player plum in 2008 and was included to the All-NBA First Team and NBA All-Defensive First Team for 11 and 9 times, respectively. Bryant bowed out of the NBA in 2016, scoring 60 points in his final appearance before his adoring fans at the Staples Center. It was a fairytale farewell to a sporting career which had begun two decades earlier. The son of former NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, the Lakers legend was born in Philadelphia in 1978 while his father played for the 76ers. The elder Bryant played from 1984 to 1991 in Italy, giving young Kobe a global worldview as he grew up dreaming of following his dad into the NBA. When his father retired as a player, the family moved back to the Philadelphia area and the younger Bryant began his star turn at the Lower Merion High School, where his jersey No. 33 was retired.
He decided at age 17 to jump directly from the prep ranks to the NBA, only the sixth player and first guard to make such a leap. Bryant was selected 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft but they were picking for the Lakers in a deal made before the draft. At 18, Bryant became, at the time, the youngest player or starter in an NBA game and the youngest winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. In 1998, he became the youngest NBA All-Star starter, and in the following year, started every game for the Lakers and signed a six-year deal worth $70 million. As the Michael Jordan era ended in Chicago, Bulls coach Phil Jackson wound up joining the Lakers and Bryant. With Bryant forming a formidable duo with dominating inside force Shaquille O'Neal, the Lakers captured 3 NBA crowns in a row from 2000 to 2002, returning the team to glory days unseen since 1988. He remained with the franchise for the remainder of his career, successfully branching out into the entertainment industry following his retirement. In 2018, he won an Oscar for his animated short film "Dear Basketball," a love letter to the sport which brought him fame and fortune.