NEW YORK: The world of basketball is mourning the death in a helicopter crash of Kobe Bryant. The 41-year-old and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people killed in Calabasas, California.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, was widely considered one of the greatest players in the game’s history.
The NBA issued a statement saying it was “devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.” It added: “For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning.”
In a statement, the City of Calabasas said it heard the news “with great sadness”.
“The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10:00 this morning. Nobody on the ground was hurt,” it added.
The US Federal Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76. It said it was investigating the accident alongside the National Transportation Safety Board.
Bryant played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He retired in April 2016.
His achievements include being the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He was also NBA scoring champion twice and a two-time Olympic champion.
In 2006 he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second-highest single-game total in NBA history.
He also won an Oscar for best short animated film in 2018 for Dear Basketball, a five-minute film based on a love letter to the sport he had written in 2015.
Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003 by a 19-year-old woman working at a Colorado resort. He denied the allegation, saying the two had consensual sex. The case was dropped after the accuser refused to testify in court.
He later apologised, saying he recognised that “she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.” A subsequent civil suit was settled out of court.
Shaquille O’Neal, who played alongside Bryant at the Lakers between 1996 and 2004, said there were “no words to express the pain I’m going through”.
“I love you and you will be missed,” he wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of the pair in their Lakers kits.
Deron Williams, who won an Olympic gold alongside Bryant, said he was lost for words. He described Bryant as “the greatest competitor I have ever gone up against and played with.”
“Terrible news,” wrote US President Donald Trump.
Former US President Barack Obama described Bryant as “a legend on the court” and said he was “just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act”.