Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time and an internationally recognizable NBA superstar, died in a helicopter crash Sunday outside Los Angeles. He was 41 years old.
Bryant was flying with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people when the helicopter went down “in a remote field” in Calabasas, Calif. around 10 a.m., according to the Associated Press.
All nine people aboard the helicopter were killed, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. But pending official word from the coroner, he would not confirm the passengers’ identities. They were named by family and local news reports as Gianna’s basketball teammate Alyssa Altobelli, her mother, Keri, and her father, John, a baseball coach. Also killed in the crash were Christina Mauser, a school basketball assistant coach; Payton Chester, another teammate of Gianna’s, and Payton’s mother Sarah. The helicopter pilot, named in local reports as Ara Zobayan, was also killed.
Elsa—Getty ImagesKobe Bryant warms up with daughter Gianna Bryant during the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 14, 2016.Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa Laine Bryant. They had four children together.
Before retiring from the NBA in 2016, Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for the entirety of his two-decade career, winning the NBA Finals five times.
Bryant was also a longtime helicopter passenger, famously flying from his Orange County home to Lakers games at the Staples Center in Los Angeles during his career.
The sports legend was in the news on Saturday as Lakers’ player LeBron James surpassed Bryant as no. 3 all-time NBA scorer. Bryant remains the fourth-highest career NBA scorer. In a tweet the night before his death, he congratulated James. “Continuing to move the game forward,” he said of James.
Bryant also won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2018 for Dear Basketball, which he wrote and narrated.
Kobe honored at Grammy awards
Performers and presenters at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, which took place at Los Angeles’ Staples Center — the home of the Lakers — paid tribute to Bryant throughout the evening. The show began with a performance from Lizzo, the night’s most-nominated artist, who said ”Tonight is for Kobe,” before launching into the lyric “I’m crying ‘cuz I love you” from her song “Cuz I Love You.” The evening’s host, Alicia Keys, followed with a heartfelt, subdued speech and was then joined by Boyz II Men for an a cappella performance of their song “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
A few minutes later, an emotional Lizzo used her award acceptance speech to remind viewers of the importance of connection. “All my little problems I thought were big as the world are gone,” she said. “I realize there are people hurting right now… Let’s continue to reach out, hold each other down and lift each other up.”
Cause of helicopter crash under investigation
The Los Angeles County Fire Department received the first report of the crash at 9:47 a.m. on Sunday in a hilly area of Los Angeles County near Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street, according to Fire Chief Daryl Osby.
Some 56 personnel, including paramedics, responded and found a quarter-acre brush fire that was caused by the crash, Osby said. Firefighters hiked into the crash site and a helicopter hoisted paramedics down to search for survivors, but rescue crews found no one alive.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating the cause of the crash.
The helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif. at 9:08 a.m.
The crash occurred as dense fog covered the area, which grounded other helicopters nearby, including those from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, the AP reported.
According to the AP, the helicopter climbed to about 2,000 feet was flying at about 160 knots (184 m.p.h.) when it crashed.
What do we know about the helicopter?
The helicopter that crashed killing NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others was reportedly a Sikorsky S-76 like the one pictured here. It is a popular model of helicopter used all over the world for executive transport, medical evacuation and search and rescue.
Angel Navarrete–Bloomberg/Getty Images
Authorities have not confirmed details about the helicopter that crashed, but according to flight tracking site flightaware.com and the Los Angeles Times, the aircraft was a 1991 Sikorsky S-76B twin-engine helicopter. It was owned by Island Express Holding Corp., registered in Fillmore, Calif., according to Flightaware.com records.
The S-76 is a popular helicopter that h