Basketball legend Kobe Bryant has died aged 41 in a helicopter crash in California.
The 41-year-old former LA Lakers star’s private chopper crashed in Calabasas on Sunday, killing Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people on board.
The NBA legend enjoyed a glittering 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers during his prime.
Bryant was travelling in his private helicopter when it crashed in Calabasas on Sunday morning at around 9:45am local time.
The chopper is said to have caught fire after going down, as emergency services battled in vain to save those on board.
Nine people have been confirmed dead as a result of the crash, which is now under investigation.
Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna has also been confirmed dead in the crash.
Police said in a statement: “We have manifested that there were nine people on board the aircraft – the pilot plus eight individuals.
“There is wide speculation who the identities are, however it would be entirely inappropriate right now to identify anyone by name until the coroner has made the identification through their very deliberative process and then made notifications to their next of kin.
“We are assisting the families of those who believe they have been impacted.”
His wife Vanessa is not believed to have been involved in the accident.
The pair share three other daughters, Natalia and Bianca and their newborn Capri.
Judging by the flight path taken, the chopper carrying Bryant circled at least 10 times over a period of 15 minutes before crashing, with Los Angeles experiencing foggy conditions all day.
In total, 56 personnel were sent to the site, with some of those attending having to hike to reach the wreckage, by which time the authorities say it was clear there were no survivors.
Others had to be dropped in by helicopter themselves, with a quarter of the mountain on fire, and proving difficult to put out due to magnesium contained within.
Bryant regularly used his Sikorsky S-76 helicopter to travel to and from matches at the Staples Center for years.
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The son of former NBA player Joe Bryant, he started his career for the Lakers in 1996 after becoming the first guard to be drafted straight out of high school by the Hornets, who immediately traded him.
He grew up in Philadelphia, and had attended Lower Merion High School in the state of Pennsylvania.
There he developed a reputation as a leading star of the future, and was soon making headlines as a rookie in the NBA.
Bryant won the 1997 Slam Dunk contest – the youngest person ever to do so, and a record he holds to this day, and was named an All-Star in just his second season.
Forming a formidable relationship with Shaquille O’Neal on the court, Bryant helped the Lakers win three back-to-back NBA championships from 2000-2002.
After being awarded most valuable player in 2008, Bryant added a further two championships to his and the Lakers’ tally, once again winning them consecutively in 2009 and 2010 – during both of which he won the finals MVP award.
His haul of five titles is the joint-highest total in franchise history, and he remains the Lakers’ all-time leading points scorer.
At 34 he became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points, and his four All-Star MVP awards are the joint-most tied with Bob Pettit.
Eerily, current Lakers star Lebron James broke Bryant’s all-time NBA scoring record on Saturday – the night before his death.
The shooting guard wore numbers eight and 24 during his career, which were both retired by the Lakers in December 2017, shortly after he had quit the sport following the 2015-16 season.
Bryant was also a two-time Olympic gold medalist in basketball, having won the tournament with United States at the Beijing games in 2008, and again at London in 2012.
He is an 18-time All-star – second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 19, whom he is also tied with for the most appearances (15) in the All-NBA Team, along with Tim Duncan.
Away from the court, Bryant also holds an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film at the 2018 awards, for ‘Dear Basketball’, a film he wrote and narrated.
Tributes have since poured in, while a memorial has been set up at the Staples Center as fans, friends and former colleagues mourn the loss of the star.
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