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NBA legend Kobe Bryant killed in helicopter crash

Los Angeles Lakers and NBA legend Kobe Bryant has been killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning, per multiple confirmed reports.

Bryant, 41, was reportedly traveling with eight others, including the pilot, in a private helicopter when it went down in Calabasas, CA at 1 p.m. ET. All nine were confirmed dead by the Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.  

His family’s representation confirmed to TMZ that Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was also on the helicopter and died.

Bryant and Gianna were recently featured in a viral video that showed the father sitting courtside at an NBA game with his daughter breaking down plays. The two were on their way to Gianna’s basketball game along with another parent and teammate.

The cause of the crash is unknown at this time, though Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times cited foggy conditions at the time of the crash.

It was common for Bryant to take a helicopter even during his playing days to beat the Los Angeles traffic.

Bryant is considered one of the greatest players in NBA history, ranking fourth all-time with 33,643 career points. He was passed on the list for third all-time by LeBron James — playing for Bryant’s Lakers — on Saturday night against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Born in Philadelphia, Bryant moved to Italy as his father played professional basketball overseas. He returned to the United States to play at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, PA where he developed into a bona fide NBA talent. 

Opting to forego college and head straight to the NBA, he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick in 1996 and was promptly traded to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.

It became one of the greatest trades in Lakers history as Bryant became a transcendental superstar in Los Angeles. 

In 20 NBA seasons, Bryant made 18 All-Star Game appearances, was a 15-time All-NBA selection, a two-time scoring champion, and the 2008 league MVP. 

He was also one of its most decorated winners, coming away with five NBA titles.

Away from the court, Bryant became an affluent businessman as well as an Oscar Award winner for his short film, “Dear Basketball” in 2018. 

While there were reports claiming the NBA was considering canceling its slate of games on Sunday, all went ahead as scheduled. As a tribute, Madison Square Garden was lit up purple and gold while the Knicks hosted the Brooklyn Nets.

“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary… But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.”

Kobe and Gianna are survived by Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother Vanessa, and Kobe’s daughters and Gianna’s sisters, Natalia, Bianca, and newborn Capri.

Joe Pantorno