The NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, died Sunday when a helicopter in which he was traveling crashed and burst into flames in a thick fog, killing the nine people on board, including his teenage daughter, and plunging the world of sports into mourning
Bryant, 41, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when his Sikorsky S-76 helicopter crashed into a steep slope in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.
Bryant, five-time NBA champion and twice Olympic gold medalist, is widely regarded as one of the best basketball players in history, an iconic figure who became one of the faces of his sport during a brilliant career two decades with the Los Lakers of Los Angeles.
Dozens of firefighters and paramedics fought on steep terrain to reach the burning remains at the scene of the accident, but found no survivors, authorities said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said a team of 18 investigators would be sent to California to investigate the causes of the accident.
Bryant’s death sparked worldwide shocks, with basketball stars surprised by the news.
“The Laker Nation, the basketball game and our city, will never be the same without Kobe,” former Los Angeles star Lakers Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.
Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan said Bryant was “like a little brother” to him.
“Words cannot describe the pain I am feeling,” Jordan said. “We used to talk often and I will miss those conversations a lot.”
– World tributes –
Tributes to Bryant flooded with former US presidents. UU., Pop stars and athletes of different sports, a sign of how the man known as the “Black Mamba” had transcended basketball.
“Kobe was a legend on the court and was just beginning in what would have been such a significant second act,” former US President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter.
American football star Tom Brady simply wrote: “We already miss you Kobe.”
Brazilian soccer star Neymar paid tribute to Bryant after scoring for his French team Paris Saint-Germain, making number 24, Bryant’s old shirt number, with his fingers.
At the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, several hundred shocked fans gathered to pay tribute as the place that witnessed many of the highlights of Bryant’s career at the Grammy Awards in the music industry.
“This guy is everything to me, man. It makes no sense, “said Bobby Jiménez, an anguished Lakers fan, sobbing while he was out of the place.
The Grammys set off with a somber tribute to singer Alicia Keys.
“To be honest, we are all feeling a crazy sadness right now,” Keys told the audience. “Los Angeles, the United States and the whole world lost a hero. And we are literally standing here with a broken heart in the house that Kobe Bryant built. “
Throughout the NBA, tributes were held in several of the eight games scheduled for Sunday.
Denver Nuggets fans began singing “Kobe, Kobe” while keeping a minute of silence before their game against the Houston Rockets.
In New York, Madison Square Garden lit up with the purple and gold colors of the Lakers, along with a giant image of Bryant titled: “Kobe Bryant, 1978-2020”.
The clash came just hours after Bryant was overtaken by current Lakers star LeBron James for third place on the NBA score list in a game Saturday in Philadelphia.
Bryant’s final post on social media was a tweet congratulating James for overcoming it.
“Continue advancing the game @KingJames,” Bryant wrote. “Much respect to my brother # 33644”.
– Five times champion –
Bryant was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 directly from high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016.
He was also twice an Olympic gold medalist, helping the American NBA star team win titles in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.
Bryant retired from the NBA in 2016, scoring 60 points in his last appearance before his fans at the Staples Center.
It was a farewell of a fairy tale to a sports career that had begun two decades earlier.
Son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, the Lakers legend was born in Philadelphia in 1978 while his father played for the 76ers.
Elder Bryant played from 1984 to 1991 in Italy, giving young Kobe a worldview of the world while growing up dreaming of following his father to the NBA.
Eventually he would join the ranks of professionals at the age of 17, jumping directly to the NBA, only the sixth player and the first guard to make that leap.
At 18, Bryant became, at that time, the youngest player or starter in an NBA game and the youngest winner in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
With Bryant paired with Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers captured three NBA crowns in a row since 2000-2002, returning the team to glory days never seen since 1988.
Bryant saw his career with the Lakers, branching out successfully in the entertainment industry after his retirement.
In 2018, he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball,” a love letter to the sport that gave him fame and fortune.