LOS ANGELES, USA – NBA legend Kobe Bryant died on Sunday, January 26 when a helicopter he was riding in crashed and burst into flames in thick fog, killing all 9 people on board including his teenage daughter and plunging legions of fans around the world into mourning.
Bryant, 41, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and 7 other passengers and crew when their Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.
Bryant, a 5-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history, an iconic figure who became one of the faces of his sport during a glittering two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dozens of firefighters and paramedics battled across steep terrain to reach the flaming wreckage at the crash site but found no survivors, officials said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said an 18-strong team of investigators would be sent to California to probe the causes of the crash.
The incident came only hours after Bryant was eclipsed by current Lakers star LeBron James for No. 3 on the all-time NBA scoring list.
Bryant’s final post on social media had been a tweet congratulating James on surpassing him.
Drafted out of high school, Bryant spent all of his 20 NBA seasons with the Lakers and helped the storied franchise win 5 championships.
He also captured two Olympic gold medals with Team USA in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games.
The man called as the “Black Mamba” won an NBA Most Valuable Player plum in 2008 and was included to the All-NBA First Team and NBA All-Defensive First Team for 11 and 9 times, respectively.
Bryant bowed out of the NBA in 2016, scoring 60 points in his final appearance before his adoring fans at the Staples Center.
It was a fairytale farewell to a sporting career which had begun two decades earlier.
The son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, the Lakers legend was born in Philadelphia in 1978 while his father played for the 76ers.
The elder Bryant played from 1984 to 1991 in Italy, giving young Kobe a global worldview as he grew up dreaming of following his dad into the NBA.
When his father retired as a player, the family moved back to the Philadelphia area and the younger Bryant began his star turn at the Lower Merion High School, where his jersey No. 33 was retired.
He decided at age 17 to jump directly from the prep ranks to the NBA, only the sixth player and first guard to make such a leap.
Bryant was selected 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft but they were picking for the Lakers in a deal made before the draft.
At 18, Bryant became, at the time, the youngest player or starter in an NBA game and the youngest winner of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
In 1998, he became the youngest NBA All-Star starter, and in the following year, started every game for the Lakers and signed a six-year deal worth $70 million.
As the Michael Jordan era ended in Chicago, Bulls coach Phil Jackson wound up joining the Lakers and Bryant.
With Bryant forming a formidable duo with dominating inside force Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers captured 3 NBA crowns in a row from 2000 to 2002, returning the team to glory days unseen since 1988.
He remained with the franchise for the remainder of his career, successfully branching out into the entertainment industry following his retirement.
In 2018, he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball,” a love letter to the sport which brought him fame and fortune. – Rappler.com