Kobe Bryant and daughter, Gianna, among nine dead in helicopter crash

Devon Greene, editor-in-chief

Former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others are dead after a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. on Sunday.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Fire Department received a call at 9:47 a.m. of a possible helicopter crash on the hills overlooking Calabasas. When they arrived on the scene, firefighters discovered a quarter-acre brush fire and all passengers were pronounced dead on the scene. The names of the remaining passengers have yet to be released. The investigation into the cause of the crash is still being investigated by local police, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Kobe was on his way to a travel basketball game with Gianna, one of her teammates, their parent and the other remaining passengers. The names of the other passengers are yet to be released. Gianna was a basketball player who had hopes of playing in the WNBA and hoped to carry on the Bryant name into the future of women’s professional basketball.

Kobe was praised as one of the greatest minds to ever step foot on the hardwood in the history of the NBA and became an international icon over the course of his life and career.

Children yelled “Kobe” when shooting crumpled up paper into trash cans, bit on their jerseys to mimic the shooting guard and plastered posters on their walls. His brand was rivaled only by fellow NBA stars LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

He played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers and retired in 2016 in one of the most legendary final games in the history of the NBA with a 60-point performance against the Utah Jazz. Kobe won five championships with the Lakers, is top five in scoring in NBA history and was the youngest player in history to reach 30,000 career points. April 13 was named “Mamba Day” in remembrance of the day when Kobe “Bean” Bryant laced up his shoes for the final time as an active member of the NBA.

In the time after his career, Kobe has become one of the most beloved members of the NBA community. He began a new life after basketball where he took an interest in soccer and even produced various entertainment projects. One of those projects “Dear Basketball,” won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 2015. He has been a massive supporter of the WNBA, an advocate for the league across the world and a mentor to young players across the league.

Kobe was passed by Los Angeles Laker, James on Saturday night on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers, a game which Kobe attended and the two shared a hug at the game. Kobe’s last tweet congratulated James on the accomplishment.

“Continuing to move the game forward,” Kobe said. “Much respect to my brother.”

Social media was flooded with disbelief as TMZ first reported the death of the star at 1:32 p.m. on Sunday. Two of the most well-known members of the Laker family tweeted out their condolences to the Laker legend.

“There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of losing my niece Gigi and my brother [Kobe],” Shaquille O’Neal, former teammate of Kobe, who won multiple championships with the guard, tweeted. “I love you and you will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. I’m sick right now.”

“Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players,” the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tweeted. “But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete.”

“My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone. It’s hard to accept,” former Laker Earvin Magic Johnson said. “He was such an icon but also did so much for LA. He was passionate about serving the homeless and was an advocate for women’s basketball. Coaching his daughter’s basketball team brought him so much happiness.”

Players from around the NBA joined the former Lakers to remember Kobe.

“I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing,” Kobe’s self-proclaimed idol, Jordan said. “Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe – he was like a little brother to me.”

“I’m stunned,” former Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen said on Twitter. “Words can’t even come close to describing it. Just an incredibly sad and tragic day.”

“Man I don’t even know where to start,” Philadelphia center Joel Embiid said. “I started playing ball because of Kobe after watching the 2010 Finals. I had never watched ball before and that Finals was the turning point of my life. I wanted to be like Kobe.”

The NBA’s Player’s Association released a statement on Sunday.

“We are stunned and devastated by the news of the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant,” the statement read. “Words cannot express his impact on our players, the NBA and the game of basketball. This is a monumental loss for the entire basketball community and our hearts are quite simply broken. We send love and prayers out to his wife Vanessa and the entire family.”

Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver also released a statement.

“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” the statement read. “For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections and two Olympic gold medals. 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. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization and the entire sports world.”

Athletes from all sports cite Kobe as a huge influence in their game and why they chose to play sports at all. Kobe’s work ethic has been praised as one of his greatest characteristics. His mantra of “Mamba Mentality” was something that players across the entire sports world tried to tap into, in order to take their game to the next level.

“Kobe you were my idol… period,” Baker Mayfield, quarterback for the Cleveland Browns tweeted. “Mentality through and through. Thank you. To your family, I wish y’all nothing but the very best. Prayers and thoughts with you don’t begin to describe what we want for y’all. Love and respect to #8 and #34 forever. #MambaMentality #Mamba.”

“Can’t be true,” JJ Watt, defensive lineman for the Houston Texans said on Twitter. “Just can’t be. Truly, truly horrific.”

The NFL was in the process of playing the Pro-Bowl when the news of Kobe’s death was released and held a moment of silence.

Former President Barack Obama also released a statement across his social media accounts.

“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” Obama said. “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.”

Kobe was born in Philadelphia into a basketball family. His father, Joe, played eight seasons in the NBA with the 76ers, San Diego Clippers and Houston Rockets. Kobe began playing basketball when he was 3 years old and was a lifelong fan of the Lakers. He played high school basketball in Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Penn. where he led his basketball team to their first state championship in 53 years. After his senior year in high school, Bryant made the decision to go directly in the NBA, he was only the sixth player in NBA history to do so.

The NBA had several games planned on Sunday and decided to follow through with the scheduled games with a moment of silence held before each game. In one of the first games following the announcement, the Toronto Raptors took a 24-second violation to honor the number of the NBA legend. However, some players decided they were unable to compete after the announcement. One of these players was Brooklyn Nets’ point guard Kyrie Irving, who had a close relationship with Kobe.

In an interview in 2016, with Micah Peters of the Ringer, Bryant spoke about his mortality and his relationship with death.

“Comfortable,” Kobe said. “It’s a comfortable one and an understanding. You can’t have life without death. You can’t have light without the dark. It’s an acceptance of that and when it came down to decide whether or not I should retire, that’s really an acceptance of mortality that all athletes face.”

Kobe is survived by his wife Vanessa, 17-year-old daughter Natalia, 3-year-old daughter Bianka and 7-month-old daughter Capri.