By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Kobe Bryant, five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA's fourth all-time leading scorer, has died in a helicopter crash in the Calabasas area of L.A. County, as first reported by TMZ. The crash claimed the lives of Bryant and eight other passengers aboard the helicopter, per the L.A. County Sheriff.
UPDATE: Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Bryant's 13-year-old Gianna was also killed in the crash.
Sources: Kobe Bryant was on his way to a travel basketball game with his daughter Gianna when the helicopter crashed. Those aboard the helicopter also included another player and parent.
UPDATE: Among the deceased from the crash is Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli. Altobelli was preparing for his 24th season at OCC. He also managed the Cape Cod Baseball League's Brewster Whitecaps from 2012-2014.
UPDATE: Per the L.A. County Sheriff's 5:30PM press conference, there were nine fatalities at the site. The previously reported number was five. The crash created a quarter-acre brushfire, with 56 people from various rescue crews at the scene, including the FAA. Sheriff Alex Villanueva reported the nine deaths, Fire Chief Daryl Osby briefed on the fire.
JUST IN: Los Angeles Sheriff says there were 9 people on board the helicopter that crashed in Southern California, killing everyone on board. https://t.co/V3oJWhreHE https://t.co/scJbUEJK5U
Bryant was in his home town of Philadelphia last night for a game between the Lakers and 76ers, in which LeBron James passed him on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Bryant sent this tweet after the game (it is the most recent Tweet sent from his account):
Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother ???????? #33644
The 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, Bryant spent 20 seasons in the NBA, all with the Lakers. He is a five-time NBA Champion, and won three straight titles along with Shaquille O'Neal between 2000-2002. Bryant won his fourth NBA championship and over the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals. He won the second of his two Finals MVP awards in that series. Bryant was the 2008 NBA MVP, was named First-Team All-NBA 11 times, and was a two-time scoring champion. His 18 All-Star Game appearances are second most in the history of the league, behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabar (19). He has both his number, 8 and 24, retired by the Lakers. He averaged exactly 25 points per game in 1,346 career games. He won gold as a member of team USA in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Bryant was a global ambassador for the game as it took off in the post Bird/Magic era. He had the second-best selling jersey in NBA history, behind only Michael Jordan. "Black Mamba" appeared on the cover of numerous NBA video games, including the popular NBA 2K series in 2009.
Bryant drew national headlines in 2003 relating to a sexual assault allegation in Colorado. The case was later dropped by prosecutors after the accuser refused to testify at the trial. The accuser also filed a civil lawsuit against Bryant, which was settled privately.
Past and present members of the Celtics weighed in on Twitter Sunday afternoon:
Nooooooo cmon someone say it ain't true... I'm sick to my stomach right now
This is not real right now
I'm heart broken. Totally heart broken. Everyone in #Boston is draped in purple & gold today for #Kobe. Prayers To the Bryant family, the #Lakers family and the entire #NBA community. God bless. #RIPMAMBA #RIPKobeBryant #RIPKobe
Jeannine & I are absolutely shocked to hear of the loss of one of my favorite people & one of the best basketball minds in the history of the game! Our hearts & prayers to Vanessa & his girls.
This is a developing story and will be updated as further information is reported...
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth