Basketball great Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash at age of 41

By PA Sport Staff

Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash at the age of 41.

The point guard, widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday morning.

Bryant, who also won two Olympic gold medals, played for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout his 20-year NBA career before retiring in 2016.

The City of Calabasas posted on Twitter: “It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Kobe Bryant and four others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.

“The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10:00 this morning. Nobody on the ground was hurt. The FAA and NTSB are investigating.”

A press conference will take place shortly in Los Angeles, at which the authorities will “provide details on the tragic helicopter crash that occurred this morning in Calabasas”.

Having announced his plans to retire in 2015, NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Bryant “one of the greatest players in the history of our game”.

Kobe Bryant won five NBA titles and two Olympic golds (Andrew Matthews/PA)

He was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2008, was Finals MVP on two occasions and was an 18-time All-Star.

Bryant – who was born in Philadelphia in 1978 – was drafted at number 13 by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 but was immediately traded to the Lakers.

The Lakers retired both of Bryant’s shirt numbers – eight and 24 – in a ceremony in December 2017, when then franchise president Magic Johnson said: “We’re here to celebrate the greatest who has ever worn the purple and gold.”

He stood third in the all-time NBA points list until Saturday night, when current Laker LeBron James pushed him down to fourth place.

James had told NBA.com after the game: “I’m just happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greats to ever play.”

Bryant tweeted on Saturday night: “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother.”

Sporting stars from around the world were quick to pay tribute to Bryant on their Twitter accounts.

Former England striker Gary Lineker wrote: “Oh no. How awful. One of the greatest sportsmen of our lifetime. Utterly tragic”, while current England forward Raheem Sterling wrote: “Rest easy Legend”.

Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady said: “We miss you already Kobe”, while retired NBA star Dwyane Wade wrote: “Nooooooooooo God please No!”.

Former sprinter Usain Bolt tweeted: “Still can’t believe @kobebryant.”

Tennis player Andy Murray’s Instagram story read: “This has hit me hard. Thinking of all his family, friends and colleagues.”