The sports world is in shock. Former basketball superstar Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday. The Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, confirmed the helicopter accident near Los Angeles at noon (local time). “LA mourns the Bryant family”, he tweeted. The police said in a press conference that nine people had died, but did not disclose names. According to the mayor, Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was among the victims.
“This is terrible news,” tweeted President Donald Trump. The North American professional league NBA recognized Kobe Bryant as “one of the most extraordinary players” in basketball history. The NBA family was “devastated” that Bryant and his daughter Gianna had died tragically, said league commissioner Adam Silver. First, the American gossip portal TMZ had reported about the death of the 41-year-old former top star of the Los Angeles Lakers.
This is a moment that leaves us struggling to find words that express the magnitude of shock and sorrow we are all feeling right now, and I am keeping Kobe’s entire family in my prayers at this time of unimaginable grief.
— Mayor Eric Garcetti (@MayorOfLA) January 26, 2020
Bryant was on the way to a basketball tournament in Calabasas near Los Angeles with his daughter and other passengers, according to several American media. The former LA Lakers player is considered one of the greatest basketball players in sports history. He was married and had four daughters. “Unreal. Kobe dead at 41. Prayers go to the families of all five victims, wrote former German NBA professional Detlef Schrempf on Twitter.
In foggy weather, the Sikorsky S-76 plane crashed in the morning (local time) and went up in flames. This fire made it difficult for the emergency services to get to the scene of the accident, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing a spokesman. The newspaper cites other sources that the helicopter started in Orange County, Bryants’ residence in southeast Los Angeles, Calabasas is about 30 kilometers west of the city.
Numerous fans gathered in the morning in front of the Staples Center, home of the Lakers, to mourn Bryant and lay wreaths. The Grammys should be awarded in the hall in the evening. The San Antonio Spurs and champion Toronto Raptors honored Bryant in their game by letting the 24 seconds elapsed without action on the first attack. During his time with the Lakers, 24 was his shirt number.
Bryant was one of the most successful and influential professionals in basketball history. “Kobe means so much for the league, for basketball worldwide,” enthused German legend Dirk Nowitzki when Bryant ended his career in April 2016 after 20 years in the NBA. “He was the Michael Jordan of our generation.”
— LASD Lost Hills Stn. (@LHSLASD) January 26, 2020
Bryant won five titles with his Los Angeles Lakers and was voted 15 times in the best team of the NBA – none of them succeeded more often. The almost two meter tall shoot guard scored 81 points once in a 2006 game. His 33,643 points in regular season games are only surpassed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and LeBron James – the latter only moved to Bryant on Saturday (local time) in third place the leaderboard over.
Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players. But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete. pic.twitter.com/9EZuwk8wrV
— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33) January 26, 2020
Even though Bryant could not continue his heyday at the end of his career and missed the playoffs with LA again and again, he still managed to finish in Hollywood. At the age of 37 he triumphed again in his last game with 60 points and was celebrated in the golden confetti rain by stars like Lakers-Edelfan Jack Nicholson, Jay-Z and David Beckham.
Bryant grew up as the son of the then NBA player Joe Bryant and temporarily moved to Italy with his family in his childhood and youth when his father was active there. His parents named him after the Kobe steak they had seen on a menu, according to the official NBA biography. In 1996, Bryant entered the NBA without having attended college. The Lakers secured the rights to the great talent after threading a serious exchange with the Charlotte Hornets.
Early in his career, Bryant took the best basketball player in history, Michael Jordan, as a benchmark, striving for his size with overwhelming ambition. Alongside the imposing Shaquille O’Neal Center, Bryant won his first three NBA championships from 2000 to 2002, but his co-star has always been recognized as the most valuable player in the final series.
His farewell after his last game, when he spoke the words “Mamba Out” in reference to his nickname and put down the indoor microphone, achieved iconic status and was imitated even by the then American President Barack Obama. Now the news of Bryant’s death caused a shock who went far beyond the basketball world.