The five people on board the helicopter died when it crashed into a hillside around 10 a.m. PT in the Calabasas area northwest of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said. The identities of the other victims haven’t been released by officials, but ESPN reported that Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was among those killed when the helicopter burst into flames after crashing in foggy conditions.
Bryant, 41, is widely regarded as one of basketball’s greatest players of all time, frequently compared with fellow NBA icon Michael Jordan. The 6-foot-6 guard spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA titles and earning All-Star honors 18 times.
He was the league’s most valuable player in 2008 and won two gold medals with the USA Men’s Basketball team in 2008 and 2012. Bryant was drafted out of high school at the age of 17, and when he made his professional debut in 1996, he was the youngest player to ever appear in an NBA game.
He was also the youngest player in NBA history to amass 27,000 career points.
Bryant retired in 2015 and will be eligible for the NBA Hall of Fame this year.
In 2016, Bryant began a new career,that primarily invests in tech, media and data companies. Bryant said he recognized that venture capital is a “different ballgame” than his NBA job, but said the disciplines he learned playing pro basketball for 20 years applied to his VC job.
Bryant also picked up an Academy Award in 2018 for the animated short Dear Basketball.
The crash ignited a brush fire, making it difficult for firefighters and emergency personnel to get to the aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, which involved a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, said FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer.
Among the many remembering Bryant and expressing shock at his death Sunday was singer and former Laker girl Paula Abdul, who paid tribute to Bryant on Twitter, saying she was devastated by the news of his passing. “Kobe had a big heart and an even bigger love for the community of Los Angeles,” she wrote.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady expressed his love for Bryant, saying, “We miss you already Kobe.”
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees paid tribute as well, saying Bryant “inspired so many people.”
ESPN sports commentator Keith Olbermann called on the NBA to cancel Sunday’s games as a tribute to Bryant.
Actress Mindy Kaling extended her thoughts to Bryant’s family.
Fan reaction to the news on was also swift, with fans gathering at a makeshift memorial in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Many others expressed their sadness on social media.
Originally published Jan. 26, 12:05 p.m. PT.