The sports world is stunned and in deep mourning after retired U.S. basketball legend Kobe Bryant was killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in the hills outside Los Angeles.
The L.A. County sheriff’s department says Bryant was one of five killed when the private helicopter went down in Calabasas, about 65 kilometers northwest of the city.
Authorities gave no information on what caused the crash, including if foggy conditions Sunday morning played a part.
Bryant was known to use a helicopter from his home to games in Los Angeles to avoid the city’s notoriously bad traffic.
Bryant, who was 41, has gone down in history as one of the greatest professional basketball players ever to step onto the court. He spent nearly his entire pro career with the Los Angeles Lakers — winning five NBA championships and the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2008. He is the fourth all-time leading scorer. LeBron James passed him for number three on the list just one day earlier. Bryant tweeted his congratulations to James.
A native of Philadelphia, Bryant spent much of his youth in Italy where his father played pro basketball after his own career in the NBA.
Unlike many NBA stars, Bryant skipped a college career after returning to the U.S. and was drafted straight out of high school by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 before being traded to the Lakers.
Some of Bryant’s accomplishments throughout his 20-year NBA career include becoming the NBA’s youngest all-star in 1998, when he was only 19 years old; an 81-point game in 2006 – the second-highest of all time; and Olympic Gold medals in 2008 and 2012.
After announcing his retirement because of injuries, Bryant scored an amazing 60 points in his final pro game in 2016.
His 2017 poem in which he bade farewell to the Lakers, “Dear Basketball,” was turned into an animated cartoon. Bryant surprised the audience when he stepped onto the stage to accept the 2018 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.
His post NBA career included setting up a charitable foundation and running a summer basketball camp for kids.