The basketball world has lost a legend way sooner than expected, as early Sunday morning TMZ reported that retired NBA superstar and former Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was among a reported nine people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA.
According to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, there were no survivors in the incident. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Bryant was on the way to a travel basketball game with his daughter Gianna when the crash occurred. Among those who were on the helicopter with Bryant and his daughter were Orange Coast College coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, their daughter Alyssa and Christina Mauser, an assistant basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Orange County.
Altobelli, 56, coached Orange Coast for 27 years, winning four state titles and more than 700 wins.
The cause of the crash was unknown. The helicopter departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9:06 a.m. PT. The first 911 call reporting the crash was received at 9:47 a.m.
The accident comes less than a day after current Los Angeles Laker LeBron James passed Bryant for third all-time in points scored. The last tweet that Kobe sent out was a congratulatory statement to James.
Kobe Bean Bryant was born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, PA. Son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, Kobe was hailed as the top high school basketball player in the country at Lower Marion High School. In 1996, Bryant declared for the NBA Draft out of high school and was drafted 13th by the Charlotte Hornets before having his rights traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac.
In his rookie season (1996-97), Bryant won the Slam Dunk Contest and the following season was voted as an All-Star starter – even though he wasn’t a full-time starter in LA yet. However, once him and fellow All-Star Shaquille O’Neal gelled together, that was when the Lakers started realizing their true potential.
Between 2000 and 2002, the Lakers won three straight NBA championships; Bryant would end up winning five championships overall (2009, 2010 – won Finals MVP on both occasions). In 2006, Bryant scored the second-most points in an NBA game when he put up 81 against the Toronto Raptors. In 2008, he won his first and only Most Valuable Player award.
Bryant retired after the 2015-16 season at the age of 37 as one of the most decorated players in both Lakers and NBA history. Bryant retired as the highest scorer in team history and was the first player in league history to have multiple numbers retired by the same franchise (8, 24). In 2018, Bryant and his production company, Granity Studios, won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his movie “Dear Basketball”.
We will continue to report on this tragedy as information comes out through our social media outlets.