Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

Kobe Bryant: Basketball legend and daughter die in helicopter crash

NBA star, 41, and teen daughter died with seven others in private helicopter

Basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, 13, were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday morning.

Seven other people died in the crash, in which no one survived.

A teammate from Gianna's basketball team, a parent of the teammate and the pilot were also killed, NBC News reported.

"It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Kobe Bryant and others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas," the city said on Twitter.

"The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10.00 this morning. Nobody on the ground was hurt."

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said: "There were no survivors. We have a manifest that indicates there were nine people on board the aircraft, the pilot plus eight individuals."

Mr Villanueva declined to identify any victims.

The NBA star, 41, was in the private helicopter when it went down and a fire broke out, TMZ earlier reported.

It said one of the people Bryant was travelling with in his private helicopter was his daughter Gianna.

Sources said that the helicopter was on the way to the basketball player's Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, California.

Bryant often used the helicopter to travel to and from games when he was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The US Federal Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76, and said it and the National Transport Safety Board would investigate.

Bryant is considered a legend in the NBA, making 18 All-Star teams during his 20-year career with the Lakers. He retired from the game in 2016.

The Philadelphia native was the first guard in NBA history to play 20 seasons and has won five NBA championships.

Bryant was the third leading scorer in NBA league history, with 33,643 points, until LeBron James passed him on Saturday.

Bryant congratulated James in what would be his final tweet.

However, the sheen of Bryant's stardom was tainted by a number of controversies including a major rape allegation that damaged his image. In 2003, he was arrested in Colorado over a sexual assault allegation filed by a 19-year-old employee of a hotel where Bryant was staying ahead of knee surgery.

Bryant was accused of rape. He admitted to adultery. In 2004, the case was dropped after the accuser refused to testify in a trial, and Bryant issued an apology saying he could understand how she might feel there was not consent. A separate civil suit was settled under terms that were kept private.

In 2011, Bryant made an apology for using a gay slur to describe a referee and paid a $100,000 fine imposed by the NBA.

Bryant also had a foray in the film industry, winning an Oscar for best short animated film in 2018 for Dear Basketball, a five-minute movie based on a love letter he wrote to the sport in 2015.

Tributes pour in for Kobe

Tributes flooded social media after the news shocked people inside and outside the NBA world.

US President Donald Trump said Bryant was one of the truly great basketball players of all time, who was just getting started.

Former President Barack Obama said Kobe was a legend on the court and said also losing a daughter was even more hearthbreaking.

Bryant's basketball contemporaries and franchises also paid tribute.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent condolences to Bryant's wife, Vanessa.

"He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary," Mr Silver said.

The Toronto Raptors paused their game for 24 seconds.

Dirk Nowitski, the German former Dallas Mavericks star, posted:

Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal said Kobe "was our Michael Jordan'.

Vince Carter played against Bryant during his 18-year career. He describes his on-court battles:

Doc Rivers, head coach of Bryant's city rivals the LA Clippers:

"Please no. Please god no. It can't be true," Cleveland Cavaliers player Kevin Lowe wrote on Twitter.

Actress Reese Witherspoon said: "Just devastated to hear about Kobe Bryant.

"An extraordinary athlete and a genuinely kind, wonderful man. Sending love, prayers and compassion to his family. To his entire NBA family as well."

US women's footballer and World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe said: "Kobe, you were a true inspiration to me as an athlete.

"I always admired your professionalism, drive and dedication. Our thoughts are with your loved ones. RIP."

The Grammy Awards pre-telecast ceremony opened with a moment of silence for Bryant.

Bryant and his wife of 19 years, Vanessa, had four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born in June last year.

Updated: January 27, 2020 04:08 PM

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