Kobe Bryant has died at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, TMZ reports. Nine people were killed in the crash the morning of Sunday, January 26, per the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Bryant’s daughter Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, was also on board and died in the crash, per TMZ. Bryant’s daughter was just 13 years old, and they were traveling to play basketball at Mamba Academy near Thousand Oaks, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. One of Gianna’s teammates, Alyssa Altobelli, was also killed in the crash, along with her parents, John and Keri Altobelli. One of the girls’ coaches, Christina Mauser, also died in the crash. The pilot has been identified as Ara Zobayan. The other two passengers have not been identified.
TMZ was the first to report Bryant’s death. Wojnarowski confirmed the report that Bryant was among those dead in the helicopter crash. “Kobe Bryant is among those dead in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles, a source confirms to ESPN,” Wojnarowski tweeted.
On the eve of Bryant’s passing, LeBron James passed Bryant on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant took to Twitter to congratulate James on the achievement in what would be his final post.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother ?? #33644,” Bryant tweeted.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office Said the Helicopter Crashed in a Hillside Area
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported there was a crash with five people dead and no survivors.
“Five people confirmed deceased, no survivors in #Calabasas helicopter crash. #LASD #Malibu deputies remain with #LA County Fire personnel. Investigation ongoing. Avoid the area until further notice,” the L.A. County Sheriffs’ office tweeted.
Los Angeles County also sent out a series of tweets describing the crash as well as photos of the crash scene.
“#Breaking Abt: 10AM Reports of downed aircraft on hillside at Las Virgenes Rd & Willow Glen St #Calabasas. #LASD #Malibu Deputies on scene. Unknown condition of occupants(s)…#Update Downed aircraft is a helicopter. Flames extinguished. #Malibu deputies at crash site looking for survivors, 4200 blk Las Virgenes Rd #Calabasas #LASD,” L.A. County noted in prior tweets.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement saying, “A S-76 helicopter crashed this morning under unknown circumstances near Calabasas, Calif. Local authorities say that five people were on board. … The FAA and the NTSB will investigate.”
Bryant Was a 5-Time NBA Champion With the Lakers
Kobe Bryant played his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA titles. He retired in 2016 as the third all-time scorer in NBA history. His mark of 33,643 points was surpassed just before his death by James.
Bryant, born in Philadelphia, joined the Lakers directly from high school in 1996 and made an immediate impact. Bryant became a transcendent sports star and an international celebrity.
Kobe Bryant Was Known to Travel by Helicopter, Including During His Playing Career
Kobe Bryant was traveling on a helicopter he used frequently, including during his playing career, according to FlightRadar.com data. The S-76 helicopter with tail number N72EX had taken off from John Wayne Airport at 9:06 a.m. local time.
In 2016, TMZ wrote that Bryant used the helicopter to get from his home in Orange County to the Staples Center and planned to continue to use it after his playing career ended.
He takes a private helicopter from Orange County, where he lives with his wife and two children, to every home game. It’s a nice dash of glitz, a touch of showbiz that goes well with the Hollywood sign in the hazy distance. But sexy as it might seem, Bryant says the helicopter is just another tool for maintaining his body. It’s no different than his weights or his whirlpool tubs or his custom-made Nikes. Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can’t sit in a car for two hours. The helicopter, therefore, ensures that he gets to Staples Center feeling fresh, that his body is warm and loose and fluid as mercury when he steps onto the court.
Bryant also used the helicopter to treat his teammates to weekends in Las Vegas, to fly to victory celebrations and even to take a teammate to a doctor’s appointment to avoid traffic.
The Sikorsky S-76 helicopter is a medium-size commercial utility helicopter with twin turboshaft engines and four-bladed main and tail rotors, according to Lockheed Martin. The company describes it as “smooth, reliable, quiet,” and calls it “your boardroom in the sky.”
“Since 1977, more than 875 S-76® aircraft have been delivered world-wide,” Lockheed says on its website. “Sikorsky is proud of the S-76 fleet’s legacy. With more than 7.4 million hours of safe, successful flight, we are committed to supporting the platform and to continuous product improvements.”
After His NBA Retirement, Bryant Started a Movie Company Called Granity Studios
After retiring from the NBA, Bryant focused on a number of different business ventures including a film studio. The legendary NBA player started Granity Studios as a way “to entertain, by bringing education and inspiration together” via the stories the company created.
Bryant partnered with ESPN for a series entitled “Detail,” breaking down film of various NBA players. In recent years, Bryant also traveled the country speaking to various sports teams on leadership and his famous “Mamba Mentality” that he brought to the basketball court.