Kobe Bryant: US mourns basketball legend killed in helicopter crash

  • Published
Media caption,

This video has been removed for rights reasons

US basketball legend Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash in California, sparking an outpouring of grief from fans around the world.

Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, were among the nine killed when the aircraft came down in Calabasas.

There were no survivors from Sunday's crash which happened in foggy weather.

Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, played for the LA Lakers throughout his career and is considered one of the greatest players in the game's history.

Tributes from celebrities, politicians and fellow sports stars have been pouring in, many expressing shock at his sudden death. Moments of silence have been observed at basketball games across the US.

Fans gathered at a makeshift memorial for Bryant in front of the Staples Center - where the Lakers play - on Sunday, laying flowers and basketballs in memory of the star. ‎

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mourners left flowers and wrote tributes to Bryant on the wall of the new hall

Bryant was also remembered at the Grammy Awards which were held at the same venue on Sunday evening.

"We're all feeling crazy sadness right now," said Grammys host Alicia Keys.

"Because earlier today Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero. We're literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built."

Media caption,

Alicia Keys and Lizzo lead tributes to Kobe Bryant at the Grammys

The NBA issued a statement saying it was "devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna".

"For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning," it said.

There have been tributes from as far away as the Philippines - where a new basketball centre named after Bryant opened just hours before his death - and Italy, where Bryant spent part of his childhood as his father played in the Italian basketball league.

A minute's silence would be observed at all basketball games "in every category for the entire week", the Italian basketball federation (Fip) said on Monday.

Fip president Giovanni Petrucci said Bryant "has been and will always be linked to Italy".

What do we know about the crash?

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the helicopter's manifest indicated that nine people were on board when it crashed, raising the number from five in earlier statements by officials.

Coroners have not officially named the victims. Family members and colleagues however said John Altobelli, coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team, was among the passengers, along with his wife Keri and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa - who played with Bryant's daughter, Gianna.

Christina Mauser, a basketball coach at Gianna's school, was also on board, her husband wrote on Facebook.

In a statement on Sunday afternoon, the City of Calabasas said it heard the news "with great sadness".

"The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10:00 this morning. Nobody on the ground was hurt," it added.

Investigators are still trying to find out the cause of the crash. But conditions were foggy, and local police had grounded their helicopters due to the poor weather.

Kurt Deetz, who has flown helicopters carrying Bryant in the past, told the Los Angeles Times that weather was a more likely cause of the accident than a mechanical issue.

"The likelihood of a catastrophic twin engine failure on that aircraft - it just doesn't happen," he said.

Media caption,

Site where basketball legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash

Gavin Masak, who lives nearby, told CBS News of the moment the helicopter crashed.

"It wasn't exactly like an explosion sound but it was like a loud boom. It sounded like a helicopter, but it sounded like a jet, like it was loud, so I went inside and told my dad what was happening. So when I came out I saw smoke on the hill but it wasn't like a big, black cloud of smoke, it was just grey," he said.

Other eyewitnesses told celebrity news site TMZ they heard the helicopter's engine sputtering before it went down.

Roads in the area have been closed to stop people trying to get to the crash site.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76B.

Why was Kobe Bryant so famous?

Bryant played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He retired in April 2016.

His achievements include being the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He was also NBA scoring champion twice and a two-time Olympic champion.

Media caption,

When Bryant scored 60 points in his final LA Lakers game

He famously scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, the second-highest single-game total in NBA history.

He also won an Oscar for best short animated film in 2018 for Dear Basketball, a five-minute film based on a love letter to the sport he had written in 2015.

Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, have three other daughters, Natalia, Bianca and Capri.

Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003 by a 19-year-old woman working at a Colorado resort. He denied the allegation, saying the two had consensual sex. The case was dropped after the accuser refused to testify in court.

He later apologised, saying he recognised that "she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did". A subsequent civil suit was settled out of court.

What's been the reaction outside sport?

Tributes for the sports star poured in on social media following news of the crash - from fellow players, but also from politicians and entertainers.

"Terrible news," tweeted US President Donald Trump. "He loved his family so much, and had such strong passion for the future. The loss of his beautiful daughter, Gianna, makes this moment even more devastating."

Former US President Barack Obama described Bryant as "a legend on the court" and said he was "just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act".

Pop star Mariah Carey said she was in shock, while rapper Kanye West tweeted his appreciation for "the life you've lived and all the inspiration you gave".

"This is absolutely terrible. Everyone is numb," American actress and model Chrissy Teigen tweeted.

Image source, Reuters

Did you ever meet Kobe Bryant? Share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways: