Kobe Bryant, Daughter Die in California Helicopter Crash

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Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday morning. He was 41 years old.

TMZ was the first to report that Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among those on the helicopter when it went down in the hills of Calabasas and a fire broke out. The crash occurred before 10 a.m. local time, and the fire made it difficult for firefighters and emergency personnel to get to the aircraft, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Bryant and his daughter were reportedly on their way to a travel basketball game with another player and parent.

ABC, ESPN, the L.A. Times and Variety also confirmed Bryant was on the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter. The City of Calabasas officially confirmed it as well. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is investigating.

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters that nine people were on board the aircraft – the pilot plus eight people.

“It is entirely inappropriate right now to identify anyone by name,” Villanueva said.

According to ESPN, the helicopter made a climbing left turn about 2,400 feet high before it made a rapid dive to the ground on Sunday morning. The pilot also reportedly contacted air traffic controllers moments before to say he started a climb to "go above the layer" of clouds present. 

The 18-time All-Star and 11-time All-NBA first-teamer led the Lakers to five NBA championships and scored 33,643 points in his 20-year NBA career. He retired after the 2015-16 season, having spent his entire career with the Lakers. The franchise retired his No. 8 and No. 24 jersey numbers in Dec. 2017.

He was 17 when he was selected with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets before being traded to the Lakers. He went on to become the Lakers' franchise leader in points, games played, three-pointers, steals and free throws.

One of his most iconic games was an 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, which ranks as the second-most points scored in an NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100 on March 2, 1962. Bryant scored 60 points in his final game when the Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz 101–96 on April 13, 2016.

The National Basketball Players Association issued the following statement:

"We are stunned and devastated by the news of the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant. Words cannot express his impact on our Players, the NBA and the game of basketball. This is a monumental loss for the entire community and our hearts are quite simply broken. We send love and prayers out to his wife Vanessa and the entire family."

In 2003, a 19-year-old woman accused Bryant of sexual assault in Colorado. He pleaded not guilty, and the charges were eventually dropped. 

On Saturday night, LeBron James surpassed Bryant on the NBA's all-time scoring list. After the game, James expressed his appreciation of Bryant and said, "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."

Bryant congratulated James on Twitter and wrote: "Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames . Much respect my brother #33644"

Bryant won an Oscar as an executive producer for Dear Basketball, an animated short film, in 2018. 

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