Kobe Bryant, legendary basketball player and a star for the Los Angeles Lakers, died Sunday (January 26) in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, TMZ reports.
TMZ reported that the 41-year-old father of four was traveling to the Mamba Sports Academy for a practice event when, at some point, the helicopter crashed to the ground, causing a fire. The Los Angeles Times reports that eyewitnesses on the ground could hear sputtering coming from the helicopter’s engine.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department confirmed that there were several casualties, with no survivors. It has also been confirmed that one of Bryant’s daughters, 13-year-old Gianna Maria Onore, was aboard the helicopter. Conflicting reports also speculated the deaths of other celebrities. In a press conference, the Sheriff's Department said there were eight people onboard the helicopter in addition to the pilot, but that the department would not be releasing names until after the coroner completed their work, and next-of-kin had been notified.
Christina Mauser, a girls basketball coach who worked with Bryant, was confirmed as being on the helicopter, per the Los Angeles Times. "My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today," her husband, Matt, wrote on Facebook. Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa, were also killed in the crash, Fox 5 News reported; Alyssa played on the same club basketball team as Gianna, who was known by loved ones as GiGi. According to CBS 2, their teammate, Payton Chester, and Payton's mother Sarah, were also on the craft, as was Bryant's personal pilot, Ara Zoboyan.
A superstar straight out of high school, Bryant was drafted to the Charlotte Hornets as a first-round pick in the NBA draft in 1996; he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers the next year. He absolutely dominated the court over the course of his 21-year career, becoming a five-time national champion, the scoring leader for two consecutive seasons in 2006 and 2007, and the all-time leading scorer for the Lakers at only 34 years old. He was the fourth-highest scoring NBA player of all time, and banked 33,643 points over the course of his career.
Bryant’s career was also marred by allegations of sexual assault; in 2003, an employee at a Colorado hotel where Bryant had stayed accused him of rape. At the time, Bryant said he believed what had transpired was a consensual encounter; he denied the allegations of sexual assault. The case was later dismissed after the alleged victim refused to testify in court, and Bryant issued a statement apologizing to her.
He retired in April 2016, after the Lakers won a game against the Utah Jazz, 106-96. In December 2017, the Lakers retired his jersey numbers, both 8 and 24, for the rest of franchise history. In addition to getting into venture capitalism and releasing a book, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play in 2018, Bryant continued to work with players to help them improve their basketball skills, in an effort to give back to the game that he loved so much.
In many ways, Gianna was his legacy; a student at famed Los Angeles private school Sierra Canyon, she also played basketball. Bryant had three other daughters with wife Vanessa: 17-year-old Natalia, 3-year-old Bianka, and 7-month-old Capri, per People. It was GiGi’s love of the sport that reignited Bryant to watch the game; he told podcast All the Smoke taking her to a recent Laker game “was the first time I was seeing the game through her eyes. It wasn’t me sitting there, you know, as an athlete or a player or something like that, and you know it’s like, about me, and I don’t like that. It was her, she was having such a good time.”
Fans, basketball players, and celebrities around the world paid their respects to Bryant as news of his death was confirmed.
This is a developing story. MTV News will update it as we know more.