CALABASAS, Calif. (AP) — Kobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday. He was 41.
Bryant died near Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. A different person familiar with the case confirmed that Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna also was killed. Authorities confirmed nine people were on the helicopter and that all were presumed dead. No names were released.
Both spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the crash had not been released publicly. The crash happened around 10 a.m.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said it was a Sikorsky S-76 and it was not known what caused the crash.
Bryant lived south of Los Angeles in coastal Orange County for much of his adult life, and he often used helicopters to save time and avoid Southern California's notorious traffic. Even as a player, he often traveled to practices and games by helicopter, and he kept up the practice after retirement as he attended to his business ventures.
The NTSB sent a "go team" of investigators to the site. NTSB generally issues a preliminary report within about 10 days that will give a rough summary of what investigators have learned.
The Sikorsky S-76 "is generally regarded as a good helicopter with a good safety record," said Gary C. Robb, an aviation attorney in Kansas City who wrote a textbook on helicopter crash litigation. "But parts fail, parts break. Anything can happen."
The crash occurred about 20 miles from Mamba Sports Academy, Bryant's basketball training complex in Thousand Oaks, California.
Bryant, who had four daughters with his wife, Vanessa, dedicated himself to boosting women's sports in his retirement, coaching and mentoring basketball players. Gianna, better known as Gigi, was a talented basketball player.
Colin Storm was in his living room in Calabasas when he heard "what sounded like a low-flying airplane or helicopter."
"Ït was very foggy so we couldn't see anything," he said. "But then we heard some sputtering, and then a boom."
A short time later the fog cleared a bit and Storm could see smoke rising from the hillside in front of his home.
Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers' LeBron James passed him during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant's hometown.
"Continuing to move the game forward (at)KingJames," Bryant wrote in his last tweet. "Much respect my brother."
On Saturday night, James said he was "happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball player to ever play. One of the all-time greatest Lakers."
In 2003, Bryant was charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He had said the two had consensual sex, and the charge was eventually dropped. The woman later filed a civil suit against Bryant that was settled out of court.