NBA legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday. The former Los Angeles Laker, nicknamed “Black Mamba,” was 41.
His 13-year-old daughter Gianna was among the helicopter’s eight other passengers, who were all confirmed dead.
John Altobelli, Orange Coast College’s head baseball coach, was among the victims, the college said in a statement. In an interview with CNN, John Altobelli’s brother Tony said Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and one of their two daughters, Alyssa, were also aboard.
In a news conference on Sunday afternoon, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department authorities refused to name the victims in the crash until the county coroner identifies them and officials notify next of kin.
The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed a S-76 helicopter crashed “under unknown circumstances.” The FAA said it will investigate the crash, as will the National Transportation Safety Board.
NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said at a news conference that a team of 18 people are going to the scene of the crash. Homendy said NTSB will investigate the history of the pilot and whatever crew was on board, maintenance records of the helicopter and information on the helicopter’s owner.
Bryant, who was married to wife Vanessa for more than 18 years, was also father to Natalia, Bianka and Capri.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement that the “NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing” of Bryant and his daughter.
“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,” Silver said in a statement. “He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game ... But 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.”
Bryant entered the league in 1996 right after he graduated from high school and played for the Lakers for 20 seasons. He was a five-time NBA champion, helping the Lakers win titles in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010.
The 18-time NBA All Star was named league MVP in 2008. He also won two Olympic gold medals for men’s basketball.
Bryant, who retired from the Lakers in 2016, is No. 4 on the NBA’s all-time points leaders, with 33,643 points. Bryant tweeted his congratulations to Laker LeBron James on Saturday, after James’ total points passed Bryant’s, putting James in the No. 3 spot. It was Bryant’s last tweet.
In 2018, Bryant became the first NBA player in history to win an Academy Award for his animated short “Dear Basketball.”
He faced backlash in 2003 after he was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado. He admitted to having a sexual encounter with the woman, but denied the accusation that it was rape. The young woman declined to testify in court, and the case was dropped. They later settled a civil suit she filed in 2005.
Bryant was remembered on Sunday as a “father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved” by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Twitter, where fans and those who knew him expressed their sadness and paid tribute to him.
“Kobe will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes,” Garcetti said in a tweet.
Hundreds of mourning fans gathered in Calabasas, near the scene of the crash; outside Staples Center, the home arena of the Lakers, where the Grammys are taking place Sunday night; and in front of a mural of the athlete on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.