The basketball star nicknamed The Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant has died.
At the age of 41, he and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were killed in a helicopter crash amid of foggy conditions. The helicopter burst into flames in the hills above Calabasas, California, USA – though the cause of this still a mystery.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said nine people were on a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter built in 1991, which departed from John Wayne Airport at 9:06am on Sunday, 26 January 2020.
The crash occurred shortly before 10am near Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street in Calabasas.
L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said 56 fire personnel including firefighters, a helicopter with paramedics, hand crews, and sheriff’s deputies rushed after authorities received a 911 call at 9:47am, wherethey discovered the crash had ignited a quarter-acre brushfire in steep terrain.
“Our firefighters hiked into the accident site with their medical equipment and hose lines to extinguish the stubborn fire as it included the brush fire and the helicopter,” Osby said. “The fire also included magnesium, which is very hard for firefighters to extinguish because magnesium reacts with oxygen and water.”
The fog was severe enough for the Los Angeles Police Department’s Air Support Division to ground its helicopters, not flying until later in the afternoon, department spokesman Josh Rubenstein said.
Across the US, public figures, former teammates, and fans alike mourned the basketball star.
“Particularly when he was young, to be a part of his life and to watch his career grow, watch him grow, this is one of the most tragic days of my life,” said fellow Lakers legend, Jerry West, who’s also the former general manager for the Lakers in 1996 and maneuvered Bryant’s immediate trade to the Lakers when he was drafted.
“I know somewhere along the way I guess I’ll come to grips with it. But now I have all these different emotions regarding him. The things I watched him do on the basketball court, but more importantly, he was making a difference off the court. It’s so unexplainable. This is going to take a long time for me.”
Former US President Barack Obama tweeted, “Kobe was a legend on the court and just got started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”
The Grammy Awards dress rehearsal took place at the Lakers’ home, the Staples Centre. Crews quickly moved Bryant’s rafter jerseys number 8 and number 24 side by side, illuminated by floodlights, and masked the other retired jerseys with curtains.
Bryant impressed Jerry West during a pre-draft workout session in Los Angeles. Less than three weeks later, the Lakers traded Vlade Divac to the Hornets in exchange for Bryant’s rights at the age of 17, as the Lakers was Bryant’s favourite team growing up.
The 6-foot-6 guard made his professional debut in the 1996-97 season opening against Minnesota; at the time he was the youngest player to appear in an NBA game.
Though only playing in a handful of games during his rookie season, he played more as the season progressed, allowing Bryant to showcase his skills, which were on display when he won the 1997 NBA slam dunk competition.
Bryant and leading scorer Shaquille O’Neal became one of the most lethal scoring and defensive combinations in the league, with guidance from former coach Phil Jackson.
The Lakers strived to three consecutive championships in 2000-2002, while Bryant began to cement his place as the game’s top player.
In 2003, Bryant was arrested for felony rape after he allegedly attacked a hotel worker in Colorado. Criminal charges were dropped after his victim declined to testify in court and Bryant made an apology for his actions on the night in question following the settlement of a civil suit in 2005.
In 2016, Bryant retired from the NBA but began a new career in Hollywood.
He won an Oscar along with director Glen Keane for the animated short film “Dear Basketball” in 2018.
Source: The LA Times