11:51 AM PST 1/26/2020
The sports icon died aboard his private helicopter while it was flying over Calabasas and crashed.
Kobe Bryant, who starred for 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers and won five NBA championships, died Sunday in a helicopter crash, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was 41.
The sports icon and Oscar winner died aboard his private helicopter while it was flying over Calabasas and crashed, starting a fire, according to TMZ Sports. Five people died in the crash, which is under investigation.
Deputies responded to the scene near Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street at around 10 a.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Lost Hills station told KTLA.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Bryant’s representatives for comment.
In 2018, Bryant won the best animated short Oscar in 2019 for his autobiographical film Dear Basketball. He wrote, executive produced and lent his voice to the project.
“I don’t know if it’s possible — I mean, as basketball players, we’re really supposed to shut up and dribble,” he said in his Oscar acceptance speech. “I’m glad we do a little bit more than that. Thank you Academy for this amazing honor. Thank you John Williams for such a wonderful piece of music. Thank you Verizon for believing in the film. Thank you Mali Carter, without you we wouldn’t be here. And to my wife, Vanessa, our daughters, Natalia, Gianna and Bianka, contigo te amo. You are my inspiration. Thank you so much, guys.”
He and his wife had a fourth child, daughter Capri, last year.
A five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star selection, Bryant is the Lakers’ franchise leader in points (33,643), games played (1,346), 3-pointers (1,827), steals (1,944) and free throws (8,378), among countless superlatives. He became the first player to spend at least 20 seasons with one franchise and retired in 2016 with a 60-point performance in his farewell game against Utah.
On Saturday, current Laker star LeBron James passed Bryant to become the No. 3 scorer in NBA history. The game took place in Bryant’s hometown of Philadelphia.
“It’s not supposed to make sense, but it just happens,” James told reporters after the game. “And I’m happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers. The man has two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It’s just crazy.”
Born in Philadelphia on Aug. 23, 1978, Bryant was the only son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. He spent many years in Italy as a youngster when his dad played professionally in that country after leaving the NBA.
A sensation at Lower Merion High School outside Philadelphia, he decided to bypass college and go directly to the NBA. He was made the No. 13 pick in the NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, who then traded him to the Lakers in July 1996 in a deal that included L.A. center Vlade Divac.
One of the most tenacious and clutch players in NBA history, the 6-foot-6 Bryant — who gave himself the nickname “Black Mamba” — once scored 81 points in a game. He was selected the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2008 and named MVP of the NBA Finals in 2009 and ’10. His uniform numbers 8 and 24 have been retired by the Lakers.
Bryant made headlines in July 2003 when he was arrested in Eagle, Colorado, on charges of sexual assault. At that time, a 19-year-old hotel employee accused the basketball player of rape, telling authorities she was assaulted by him while he was staying at The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera awaiting surgery.
Bryant publicly admitted he and the accuser did have relations, but he claimed it was consensual. He also made a public apology to his wife. The criminal case was dropped after Bryant’s accuser refused to testify, but a civil suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. Part of the suit involved Bryant’s apology, although he never admitted fault.
He regularly took a helicopter to Lakers games from his Orange County home in the Newport Coast community.
More to come.