Kobe Bryant dead: NBA star tragically dies in California helicopter crash aged 41

Lawrence Ostlere, Tom Kershaw

Basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna are among nine people killed after his private helicopter came down on Sunday morning outside Los Angeles.​

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, was not on board. They have three further children together – Natalia, Bianca and six-month-old Capri.

A call for a downed helicopter in Calabasas went out at 10.01am, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said, and officials later confirmed Bryant’s death.

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

Firefighters who attended the scene had to hike up to the challenging site in the hills where they put out the flames.

Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, along with his wife and daughter, are among the other victims.

An investigation is under way into the cause of the crash. Thick fog had blanketed the area on Sunday, causing the Los Angeles Police Department to ground their usual two helicopters.

“We received a call just before 10am this morning of an aircraft down in the Malibu area, right off of Las Vergenes, essentially Calabasas,” fire captain Tony Imbrenda told reporters at the scene. “Some folks were out here mountain biking this morning, they saw an aircraft in distress, they went down into the hillside. This was a helicopter, it’s been confirmed it was an S-76 Sikorsky helicopter and unfortunately there were no survivors.”

Bryant, 41, is considered one of greatest basketball players of all time. He became a legend at the Los Angeles Lakers, spending his entire 20-year career with the team, becoming a five-time NBA champion and twice being named finals MVP.

In 2018 he won an Oscar for best short animated film for Dear Basketball, a five-minute film based on a love letter to basketball which Bryant wrote in 2015.

On Saturday LeBron James surpassed Bryant’s total of 33,643 points on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, climbing into the top three in history behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.

James paid tribute to Bryant, saying: “It’s just too much. It’s too much. The story is too much. It doesn’t make sense. Just to make a long story short, now I’m here in a Lakers uniform, in Philadelphia, where he’s from.

“The first time I ever met him, gave me his shoes on All-Star Weekend. It’s surreal. It doesn’t make no sense, but the universe just puts things in your life. And I guess when you live in the right way, when you just give it everything to whatever you’re doing, things happen organically.

“And it’s not supposed to make sense, but it just happens. And I’m happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers. The man has two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It’s just crazy.”