Update: Kobe Bryant: Basketball legend dies in helicopter crash




US basketball legend Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash in the city of Calabasas, California, along with his daughter Gianna and three others.

Bryant, 41, was travelling in a private helicopter when it crashed and burst into flames, according to reports.

The five-time NBA champion was widely considered one of the greatest players in the game’s history.

Tributes from celebrities and fellow sports stars have been pouring in, many expressing shock at his sudden death.

“Please no. Please god no. It can’t be true,” basketball player Kevin Love wrote on Twitter.

The NBA issued a statement saying it was “devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna” aged 13.

“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,” it said.

The identities of the other victims have not yet been released.

What do we know about the crash?

In a statement, the City of Calabasas said it was “with great sadness that we learn of the death of Kobe Bryant and four others in a helicopter crash”.

“The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10:00 this morning. Nobody on the ground was hurt,” it added.

Gavin Masak, who lives nearby, told CBS News of the moment the helicopter crashed.

“It wasn’t exactly like an explosion sound but it was like a loud boom. It sounded like a helicopter, but it sounded like a jet, like it was loud, so I went inside and told my dad what was happening. So when I came out I saw smoke on the hill but it wasn’t like a big, black cloud of smoke, it was just grey,” he said.

Media captionSite where basketball legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash

Other eyewitnesses told celebrity news site TMZ they heard the helicopter’s engine sputtering before it went down.

The LA County Sheriff’s Department shared pictures from the scene of the accident, showing a fire truck and smoke emerging from the hills.

Twitter post by @LASDHQ: #Update Downed aircraft is a helicopter. Flames extinguished. #Malibu deputies at crash site looking for survivors, 4200 blk Las Virgenes Rd #Calabasas #LASD

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.

Officials were set to give further details at a press conference expected to begin at about 22:30 GMT.

Who was Bryant?

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.

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant plays a game in Los Angeles, on 21 May 2009.
Image captionBryant played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers

He famously scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, 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 and his wife, Vanessa, have three more daughters, Natalia, Bianca and Capri.

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.

What has the reaction been?

Tributes for the sports star poured in on social media following news of the crash.

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.”Skip Instagram post by dwill8View this post on Instagram

Loss for words right now! The greatest competitor i have ever gone up against and played with. Learned so much from watching you play as a kid. Could never get past you in the playoffs in the west. But had the honor of playing beside you in two Olympics. Can’t believe you are gone. 🙏🏽 for @vanessabryant and their whole family. #mambamentality🐍

A post shared by Deron Williams (@dwill8) on Jan 26, 2020 at 12:16pm PSTReport

End of Instagram post by dwill8

Former basketball player Tony Parker said he was “heartbroken”.

“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”.

Eight-time Olympic gold medallist sprinter Usain Bolt said he could not believe the news.

Twitter post by @usainbolt: Still can’t believe ⁦@kobebryant⁩ 🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿

Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling wrote “rest easy legend” in a tweet accompanied by a black-and-white photo of the sports star.

“This is absolutely terrible. Everyone is numb,” American actress and model Chrissy Teigen tweeted.

Pop star Mariah Carey said she was in shock.

Fans gathered at a makeshift memorial for Bryant in front of the Staples Center sports and entertainment arena in Los Angeles, laying flowers and basketballs in memory of the star.

Source: BBC