NBA legend Kobe Bryant is among five people killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Bryant was 41.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, there were no survivors of the crash. An investigation is ongoing.
The crash comes one day after Bryant was passed by Lakers forward LeBron James for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. As late as 10:39 p.m. ET on Saturday night, Bryant was active on social media, congratulating James on Twitter during the Lakers’ 108-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
James inscribed his sneakers with “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB” in gold marker before the game, showing respect for Bryant, an 18-time All-Star with the Lakers who is eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020. All week, in the lead-up to the milestone, he was quick to laud Bryant.
“It’s another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school,” James said. “Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration. It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So, just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it’s very humbling and it’s dope.
“Kobe’s a legend, that’s for damn sure.”
A 6-foot, 6-inch small forward with the ability to swing up front and play point or shooting guard, Bryant entered the NBA straight out of high school. In 1996, he became the youngest player in NBA history.
He won five NBA titles in his time with the Lakers, as well as two Olympic gold medals playing for the United States. Now fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, with 33,643 points, Bryant won two NBA Finals MVP awards and one NBA regular-season MVP nod in 2008.
A native of Philadelphia, Bryant was selected No. 13 overall in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets before being traded to the Lakers. He wore both No. 8 and 24 with the Lakers, both of which were retired by the franchise.
“I’m happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant. One of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers,” James said Saturday night. “The man got two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It’s just crazy.”
Bryant is the only player in NBA history to have multiple jerseys retired by a single franchise.
His highest scoring game came on Jan. 22, 2006 when he scored 81 points against the Raptors. That’s the second-most points in a game in NBA history, behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 on March 2, 1962.
On Nov. 29, 2015, Bryant announced that he intended to retire at the end of the season, which launched a farewell tour for the ages around the NBA. He played in 66 games that season for Los Angeles, averaging 17.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
In his final game, on April 13, 2016, he scored 60 points, leading the Lakers past the Utah Jazz 101-96.
While Bryant was an unqualified star on the court, he did have controversy off it. He was accused of sexual assault in Colorado in 2003. The criminal case was dropped the next year, but Bryant still issued an apology. He said that he considered the encounter to be consensual but recognized that the woman “did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.”
Bryant has been married to Vanessa Laine Bryant since 2001, and they had four daughters together. His father Joe “Jellbean” Bryant is a former NBA player.
Bryant’s death was first reported by TMZ.