(AP/Gray News) - Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant died in a helicopter crash Sunday, according to multiple reports. Bryant was 41 years old.
Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna watch the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between Connecticut and Houston, Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Storrs, Conn. (Source: AP/Jessica Hill)
The crash happened in the hills above Calabasas, Calif. about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. All nine people aboard the helicopter died, according to officials.
While the deaths of Bryant and his daughter have been widely reported, officials refrained from identifying anyone involved, pending confirmation by the coroner and notifications to families.
The Orange County Register reported Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa were also among the crash victims, based on a statement from the family. Altobelli’s daughter was on the same basketball team as Bryant’s daughter.
Altobelli spent 27 seasons as coach at the community college in Costa Mesa, California. He coached future major leaguers including Jeff McNeil of the New York Mets.
Tributes at sporting events happened as news spread of Bryant’s death, including moments of silence at NBA games and a “Kobe” chant at the NFL Pro Bowl. Fans gathered near the site of the crash to mourn, as well as at the Staples Center where Bryant played his home games.
Larry Bird called Bryant “a man of the world” and said he “touched so many lives and communities in the most positive ways.” Bill Russell called Bryant one of his favorite people and “one of the best basketball minds in the history of the game.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called Bryant a “giant who inspired, amazed and thrilled people everywhere.”
Philadelphia 76ers center Joe Embiid tweeted that he started playing basketball after watching Bryant in the 2010 NBA Finals, saying it was a turning point in his life.
Madison Square Garden, where Bryant played in his first All-Star Game in 1998, was lit up in the Lakers’ purple and gold colors. Clippers coach Doc Rivers tearfully said players would need Bryant’s spirit to play.
Former Bulls start Scottie Pippen says he was stunned, while former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tweeted that while most people will remember Bryant as the magnificent athlete he will always remember him as a man who was much more.
An image memorializing Bryant was shown on a video screen outside Staples, even as the venue was set to host The Grammys. The music awards show opened with a moment of silence in tribute.
Bryant won five NBA championships during his 20-year career, all with the Lakers. He was named the league MVP in 2008 and was an 18-time All-Star.
He tweeted Saturday to congratulate LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers for surpassing him for third on NBA’s third all-time scoring list. Bryant scored 33,643 points in his career, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone when he retired in 2016.
The Los Angeles Times reports the helicopter took off from Orange County, where Bryant lived. The crash happened shortly before 10 a.m. local time in the hills above Calabasas in foggy conditions.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told a press conference that debris is scattered over an area the size of a football field.
The county medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, says recovery of remains may take several days. Lucas says investigators will try to make identifications of the victims as quickly as possible.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team of 18 people to the scene of the crash.
NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said at a news conference that investigators will look at the pilot's history, the maintenance records and information on the helicopter's owner and operator. Homendy said investigators were not sure how many people the aircraft was configured to carry.
The helicopter that crashed was a twin-engine Sikorsky S-76.
Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. Gray Media Group, Inc. contributed to this report.