The world was stunned on Sunday to hear that basketball legend Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles.
Los Angeles officials have since confirmed that Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also perished in the weekend tragedy, along with seven others, including the helicopter’s pilot, according to NBC News.
Nine killed in Sunday crash
Bryant was flying in his private helicopter Sunday morning when it crashed into a hillside in the city of Calabasas in Los Angeles County. First responders rushed to the crash site around 10 a.m. and found a quarter-acre brush fire, Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby said at a Sunday press conference shared on Facebook by the Washington Examiner.
Firefighters hiked in with medical equipment and hoses to extinguish the fire, while a helicopter flew in paramedics to search for survivors. None of the helicopter’s nine passengers and crew members survived, Los Angeles County Sherriff Alex Villanueva confirmed Sunday, but he warned at the time of “wholly inappropriate” speculation about the victims’ identities until they could be confirmed.
“God bless their souls,” said Villanueva, who went on to slam gossip site TMZ for publicizing the tragedy before the families of the deceased could be notified.
According to Fox News, the victims have since been confirmed as Bryant and his daughter Gianna; Gianna’s teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester; their basketball coach Christina Mauser; Alyssa’s mom and dad, Keri and John, who coached college basketball; Payton’s mother Sarah Chester; and pilot Ara Zobayan.
Their Sikorsky S-76B helicopter was in the air less than an hour after taking off from 9:06 a.m. at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, the New York Post reported. A federal investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing, but foggy conditions might have been a factor; the fog was bad enough that police grounded their copters, but Bryant’s copter got a special clearance to fly, Fox reported Monday.
The world grieves a legendary athlete
Bryant, who retired in 2016 after a legendary 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, was one of the top scorers in NBA history, according to the Associated Press. He is remembered for such heroic achievements as an unforgettable game against the Toronto Raptors during the 2005–2006 season in which he scored 81 points.
News of Bryant’s death was greeted with an outpouring of grief around the world, as fans, American presidents, and celebrities reacted to the shocking demise of one of the greatest basketball players of all time. President Donald Trump, former President Barack Obama, and retired NBA legend Michael Jordan were just some of those who paid tribute.
“Words can’t describe the pain I am feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me,” Jordan said, according to the AP. “We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.”
With former teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant led the Lakers to win three consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001, and 2002, and he led the team to more championships in 2009 and 2010. He won the MVP award in 2008.
Bryant was the third top scorer in the league before current Lakers player LeBron James surpassed him at a game in Philadelphia on Saturday night. In his last tweet before his death, Bryant congratulated James on the achievement.
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020