Kobe Bryant, others killed in California helicopter crash
Multiple sources, including ESPN and the LA Times are reporting that Kobe Bryant and at least three others were killed when a helicopter slammed into a hillside near Malibu in Los Angeles County, authorities said.
The county Sheriff's Department said there were no survivors and that the investigation was continuing.
The crash took place in Calabasas, a city of about 25,000 people in the Santa Monica Mountains about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Art Marrujo, a dispatch supervisor with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said firefighters quickly doused a blaze that raced through about an acre of brush.
There were no homes in the area, and no roadways were impacted by the crash that took place in foggy conditions, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department tweeted that five people were killed but have not named Bryant or any other passengers.
Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown.
“Continuing to move the game forward (at)KingJames,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet. “Much respect my brother.”
Bryant had one of the greatest careers in recent NBA history and became one of the game’s most popular players as the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers franchise. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams.
He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game.
Bryant looms large over the current generation of NBA players. After James passed Bryant on Saturday, he remembered listening to Bryant when the superstar came to speak at a childhood basketball camp.
“I remember one thing he said: If you want to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you’ve got to put the work in,” James said. “There’s no substitution for work.”
James later teamed up with Bryant on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in Beijing.
“He had zero flaws offensively,” James said. “Zero. You backed off of him, he could shoot the 3. You body him up a little bit, he could go around you. He could shoot from mid-range. He could post. He could make free throws. ... He was just immortal offensively because of his skill set and his work ethic.”
Bryant was a basketball superstar for his entire adult life. He entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996 after a childhood spent partly in Italy, where his father, former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played professionally.
The Lakers acquired the 17-year-old Bryant in a trade shortly after Charlotte drafted him, and he immediately became one of the most exciting and intriguing players in the sport alongside O’Neal, who had signed with the Lakers as a free agent. Bryant won the Slam Dunk Contest as an upstart rookie, and the Lakers gradually grew into a team that won three consecutive championships.
Bryant and Gasol formed the nucleus of another championship team in 2008, reaching three straight NBA Finals and eventually winning two more titles.
In 2003, Bryant was charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He had said the two had consensual sex. Prosecutors later dropped the felony sexual assault charge against Bryant at the request of the accuser.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Contributing: The Associated Press, TMZ, LA Times