Kobe Bryant Dead in Helicopter Crash at Age 41

NBA star Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020.

By Corinne Heller Jan 26, 2020 11:08 PMTags
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Kobe Bryant was killed on Sunday morning when his private helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California, E! News has confirmed. He was 41.

The retired Los Angeles Lakers star, one of the best NBA players of all time, was accompanied by his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, who also died in the accident, E! News has confirmed. Police said in a press conference that according to the flight manifest, nine people were on board the aircraft. They said there were no survivors. As of Sunday afternoon, authorities have only named Kobe as one of the victims. The crash remains under investigation.

CNN reported that Kobe and Gianna, aka Gigi, were expected at his Mamba Sports Academy in nearby Newbury Park, where the teen was set to play in a basketball game and where he serves as coach. Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, one of Gianna’s basketball teammates, were also killed in the crash, E! News confirmed.

Kobe was married to Vanessa Bryant and in addition to Gianna, they had three other daughters—Natalia, 17; Bianka, 3; and 7-month-old baby Capri

Kobe Bryant: Life in Photos

The Sikorsky S-76 helicopter crashed not far from a water plant, amid foggy conditions. A brush fire erupted at the crash site and firefighters had to hike up the hillside to extinguish it while other emergency workers searched the wreckage for survivors. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department posted on Twitter photos of the aftermath.

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

"We are stunned and devastated by the news of the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant," the National Basketball Players Association said in a statement. "Words cannot express his impact on our players, the NBA and the game of basketball. This is a monumental loss for the entire basketball community and our hearts are quite simply broken. We send love and prayers out to his wife Vanessa and the entire family."

A statement from the University of Houston's Vice President of Athletics also mourned Altobelli, who played for the Cougars and graduated from the college in 1987. It read, "The Houston Athletics family is saddened today by the passing of John Altobelli. John served as a team captain for our baseball program during his time as a student-athlete at UH and worked tirelessly as a coach at Orange Coast College for the last 28 years, developing many players that had the opportunity to play for our university. Our thoughts and prayers will be with John's family in the days ahead.

Many NBA stars and other celebs paid tribute to Kobe on social media.

Scores of fans have flocked to the crash site, many wearing Lakers shirts and waving team flags from their cars, and heavy traffic was reported on the nearest road, which is usually nearly empty on weekends. 

Fans also flocked to the Mamba Sports Academy and Downtown Los Angeles' Staples Center, home of the Lakers.

The stadium has been closed to the public due to the 2020 Grammys that will take place there on Sunday evening. Fans erected a makeshift memorial at the nearby L.A. Live complex.

E! News

Staples Center later displayed an electronic billboard that read, "In loving memory of Kobe Bryant 1978-2020."

E! News

Kobe retired in 2016 after 20 years with the Lakers.

The 18-time All-Star with the Lakers often commuted via private helicopter from his home in the Newport Beach area to Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles during his time in the NBA.

Kobe, who was born in Philadelphia, entered the NBA straight out of high school and won five NBA titles with the Lakers and two Olympic gold medals playing for the United States. In 2018, he won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for Dear Basketball.

News of Kobe's death was first reported by TMZ.

Kobe Bryant Dead at 41: Look Back at His Family Photos

In his final interview, published last week, Kobe talked to USA Today about his work coaching youth sports and creating The Wizenard Series of children's books.

"You got to do what you love to do. I love telling stories," he said. "I love inspiring kids or providing them with tools that are going to help them."

His death comes one day after he was passed by Lakers forward LeBron James for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list while the team played the Philadelphia 76ers, ESPN reported. The night before, Kobe tweeted, "Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644."

In 1996, the Charlotte Hornets selected Kobe as No. 13 and then traded him to the Lakers, where he wore both No. 8 and 24 jerseys, both of which were retired by the franchise. Before Saturday's game, LeBron inscribed his sneakers with "Mamba 4 Life" and "8/24 KB" in gold marker, ESPN said.

"It's another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school," LeBron said. "Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration. It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation."

"Kobe's a legend, that's for damn sure," he added.

—Reporting by Spencer Lubitz, Holly Passalaqua, Lindsay Good and Taylor Bryant

(This story was originally published on Sunday, January 26, at 11:51 a.m. PT)