, Los Angeles Lakers legend, five-time champion and one the most prolific scorers in basketball history, is dead at the age 41.
The retired basketball star was aboard a helicopter that crashed near Calabasas, California Sunday morning. Los Angeles County Sheriffs wrote that all five people aboard the helicopter were killed in the crash.
TMZ first reported that Bryant had died in the crash; the report was later confirmed by ESPN NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski. The Los Angeles Times also confirmed Bryant’s death. Investigators were trying to determine what caused the crash, Variety reports.
The son former NBA player Joe Bryant, Kobe was a basketball prodigy coming out Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania, and upon being picked 13th overall in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Lakers ( Charlotte Hornets), Bryant became the first-ever guard drafted in the first round out high school.
That was the first many achievements the player dubbed “Black Mamba” accomplished over his 20-year NBA career: In 18 those 20 seasons, Bryant was named to 18 All-Star Games, second-ever only to fellow Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bryant made the NBA All-Defensive Team 12 times, was named All-NBA 15 times, won the scoring championship twice, was named NBA Finals MVP in 2009 and 2010 and, in 2008, earned the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. Bryant’s #8 and #24, the two jersey numbers he wore in the Lakers’ purple-and-gold, are both retired in the Staples Center.
Bryant retired from basketball at the conclusion the 2015-16 season; he scored 60 points in his final NBA game on April 13th, 2016. He was nominated for the Basketball Hall Fame in December 2019.
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, a diehard Lakers fan, spoke to Rolling Stone in 2016 to pay tribute to Bryant prior to his final game; Flea also performed the National Anthem at Bryant’s last game in Los Angeles.
“I’ve watched, listened to or at least read about pretty much every game that Kobe Bryant played his entire career,” Flea says. “And I see someone who put a lot stock in discipline and work ethic and nurturing his creativity. I just have always respected him so much – even when he was young and arrogant and foolish and you know, arguably self-centered. He’s always meant so much to me.
“I look at him as someone like, you know, Charlie Parker or John Coltrane or Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix, you know?” Flea continued. “He’s been able to change and evolve and grow and be such a master his craft. It’s been great seeing him grow up, because he joined the Lakers when he was 17, and he’s done so much for our city.”
In 2018, Bryant was the surprise recipient an Academy Award after his John Williams-scored short film Dear Basketball won for Best Animated Short Film.
Bryant’s stunning death came just hours after LeBron James passed the Lakers great for third place on the all-time NBA scoring list. During Saturday’s game, James wrote “MAMBA 4 LIFE” on his sneakers in tribute to Bryant. “Kobe’s a legend, that’s for damn sure,” James said earlier in the day. “Seeing him come straight out high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration. It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew me because what he was able to do. So, just to be able to, at this point my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it’s very humbling and it’s dope.”
— NBA (@NBA) January 26, 2020
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother 💪🏾 #33644
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) January 26, 2020
Some the most fun times I’ve had with my family has been going to Lakers games, so it is so shocking and so sad to hear about Kobe Bryant. Love and mercy to Kobe’s beautiful family.
— Brian Wilson (@BrianWilsonLive) January 26, 2020
I love you Kobe
— Flea (@flea333) January 26, 2020
Man I don’t even know where to start😭😭 I started playing ball because KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched ball before that and that finals was the turning point my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I’m so FREAKING SAD right now!!!!
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) January 26, 2020
The story is developing…