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2020-01-27 11:14:571 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image Kobe Bryant (Image source: Public domain)
The country was in shock on Sunday as the news was released that NBA great and two-time Olympic gold medalist Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. The even more devastating news was that he was traveling with his daughter Gianna and that she perished as well.
Father and daughter were riding in an S-76 helicopter on Sunday when it crashed on a hillside near Calabasas, California. The flight manifest listed one pilot and eight passengers. There were no survivors. Alyssa Altobelli was a basketball teammate of Gianna's and was a passenger as well, along with her mother Keri and father, Orange Coast College basketball coach John Altobelli.
"For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning," said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a statement.
"He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary. ... 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."
Low clouds and restricted visibility were reported in the area of the crash that led to a quarter-acre brush fire, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. It responded to the blaze with "15 pieces of apparatus and 56 personnel." After the crash, white smoke was visible from nearby Highway 101. A large crowd of fans appeared at the crash site to pay their respects.
Bryant was seen as the next Michael Jordan and entered by NBA directly out of high school in 1996. The Charlotte Hornets chose him with the 13th pick, but he was traded immediately to the Lakers and went on to spend his entire career with them.
"I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing," said Chicago Bulls great Jordan in a statement. "I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greatest of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply — and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball."
By his second season in the NBA, Bryant had earned his first all-star selection. By season four Shaquille O'Neal had landed on the team, culminating in three consecutive championships.
"There's no words to express the pain I'm going through with this tragedy of [losing] my [niece] Gigi and my brother Kobe Bryant," O'Neal tweeted. "I love u and u will be missed. My condolences [go] out to the Bryant family."
Bryant retired in 2016 as the league's third-all-time leading scorer with 33,643 points and was expected to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot this summer. He suffered an Achilles' injury in 2013 yet recovered to play three more seasons.
Donald Trump referred to Bryant's death as "terrible news" in a tweet. Former President Barack Obama and wife Michelle sent "love and prayers" to Bryant's family "on an unthinkable day," adding, "Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents."
Hall of Fame Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who has also been a coach and executive of the team, said that "the game of basketball [and] our city will never be the same without Kobe."
Throughout NBA games on Sunday, multiple team held tributes to Bryant. The ball was intentionally held to incur a 24-second violation, one of his jersey numbers. Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, who worked out with him last summer, played wearing Bryant's other jersey number, 8. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said his team would permanently retire number 24, despite Bryant never playing for the Mavericks.
In 2002 Bryant was accused of sexual assault by a Colorado woman. The charges were later dropped, and the case was settled in a civil court, a definite blemish on his career.
In his retirement, Bryant wrote children's books and also produced animated stories. He continued to pursue media and business projects with his Granity Studio. He won an Academy Award in 2018 for best animated short film for "Dear Basketball."
Bryant passed his love for basketball down to Gianna and served as her coach, occasionally taking her to Lakers games. They sat court-side last month in a game with the Mavericks.
"[Bryant has] got one of the greatest female basketball players that's about to come up sitting next to him," said fellow Laker LeBron James after a November game. "I'm just trying to put on a show for them."
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