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NBA legend Kobe Bryant killed in helicopter crash

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Basketball legend Kobe Bryant has died alongside his teenage daughter in a helicopter crash in California. He was 41.

Kobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, has died in a helicopter crash. He was 41.

The crash happened about 10am (local time) in Calabasas, about 50 kilometres north-west of downtown Los Angeles, in weather conditions considered by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to be unsafe for helicopters. Nine people, including a pilot, were on board and all were killed.

Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, was on the chopper, multiple sources reported. The names and identities of the other passengers or the pilot have not been officially confirmed.

A body is removed from the scene of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA basketball player Kobe BryantFirefighters work at the scene of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people on board.Aerial shot of the helicopter crash, where Kobe Bryant and all passengers on board were killed.

As the FBI launched its investigation into the crash, it emerged weather conditions on Sunday morning did not meet the LAPD's minimum standards for flying, spokesman Josh Rubenstein confirmed.

Due to foggy conditions, LAPD had grounded its helicopters in the morning.

"This morning we did not fly because of that [weather]," Rubenstein told CNN.

Dr Jonathan Lucas, the County of Los Angeles's chief medical examiner, today said it may take a few days for teams to finish work at the crash site.

"Our recovery efforts began today but ... given the terrain and the condition of the site, we expect that this will probably take at least a couple, if not a few days, to complete the recovery."

Lucas said authorities are focusing on identifying the victims and notifying their families.

"All of which we'll do as soon as we possibly can," he said.

Members of the public have been trying to reach the crash site, for a closer look at the wreckage and field of debris.

"We have to reiterate it is off-limits to everybody except the first responders and investigators," Lucas urged.

Gianna Bryant and her father, former NBA player Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NevadaMap showing where Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter accident.

Bryant and others were flying to game

Bryant and his daughter were expected at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game scheduled for noon on Sunday (local time). Gianna was expected to play in the game and Bryant was expected to coach, according to Lady Mavericks team director Evelyn Morales.

Tony Altobelli told CNN his brother, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, 56; John's daughter Alyssa and wife Keri were killed in the crash. Altobelli was a former assistant baseball coach at the University of Houston, the school said.

Alyssa and and Gianna were teammates, Tony Altobelli said.

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Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Corona del Mar, California, was killed in the crash, her husband Matt Mauser, wrote on his Facebook page.

"My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash," he wrote.

The helicopter Bryant and his daughter were flying in was a Sikorsky S-76, US Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said, adding it was not known what caused the crash. The tail number matched a helicopter Bryant has owned for years.

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In this 2018 photo former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna are pictured at the US national championships swimming meet. The 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Gianna also died in the crash. She was 13.Photo of a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter at Van Nuys Airport in  California. NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and others died after their helicopter, the same type shown in this photo, crashed in Southern California. A young LA Lakers fan looks up to the hill where NBA legend Kobe Bryant was one of nine people killed in a helicopter crash.

Disturbing sounds in a foggy sky

Colin Storm was in his living room in Calabasas when he heard "what sounded like a low-flying airplane or helicopter."

"It was very foggy so we couldn't see anything," he said. "But then we heard some sputtering, and then a boom."

A short time later the fog cleared and Mr Storm could see smoke rising from the hillside in front of his home.

Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain Tony Imbrenda said he didn't immediately have any information about whether the helicopter radioed a distress signal.

"Individuals that saw the aircraft said it was coming down at a fairly significant rate of speed and impacted the ground on the hillside," he told reporters.

Mr Imbrenda said he didn't know where the helicopter came from or where it was headed.

Pictures taken shortly after the crash showed fog in the area. Sunday morning's weather also included light wind and temperatures around 12C.

Debris from a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter belonging to former Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant lays in the hills after crashing in Calabasas, CaliforniaBasketball legend Kobe Bryant, 41, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, CaliforniaThe Federal Aviation Administration and National Tranportation Safety Board are investigating the crash of the S-76 helicopter

Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic.

He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers' LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant's hometown.

"Continuing to move the game forward (at)KingJames," Bryant wrote in his last tweet.

"Much respect my brother."

In a statement, basketball great Michael Jordan said he had no words to describe the pain he was feeling.

"I loved Kobe – he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply."

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In a series of touching posts on Twitter, Earvin 'Magic' Johnson said the "greatest Laker of all-time is gone".

President Trump called Bryant's death "terrible news", and celebrities like Idris Elba and Ellen DeGeneres also paid their respects.

One of the NBA's greatest

Bryant had one of the greatest careers in recent NBA history and became one of the game's most popular players as the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers franchise.

He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA's All-Defensive teams.

He teamed with Shaquille O'Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Kobe Bryant and his family at the world premiere of "A Wrinkle in Time" in Los Angeles, in 2018. Vanessa Bryant, from left, Kobe Bryant, Natalia Bryant and Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant.Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant fist-bumps his daughter Gianna after the last NBA basketball game of his career, in 2016.The New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets honour Kobe Bryant at Madison Square Garden, in New York City.

He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.

Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game.

Bryant looms large over the current generation of NBA players.

After James passed Bryant on Saturday, he remembered listening to Bryant when the superstar came to speak at a childhood basketball camp.

"I remember one thing he said: If you want to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you've got to put the work in," James said.

"There's no substitution for work."

James later teamed up with Bryant on the 2008 US Olympic team in Beijing.

"He had zero flaws offensively," James said.

In this 2002 file photo Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant waits between plays during the opener of their best-of-five first-round Western Conference playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Los Angeles

'A monumental loss'

As news of Bryant's death spread through the NBA today, teams across the league honoured him during their games.

The Toronto Raptors let the 24-second shot clock run out after tip-off during their game with the Spurs as a sign of respect for the legend.

The NBA Players Association also released a statement on Kobe Bryant's death today:

"We are stunned and devastated by the news of the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant. 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," the league said.

Breakdown of Kobe Bryant's incredible basketball career.

Australia's NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said the league was "shocked and saddened" by the tragic news.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the Bryant family and their many friends around the world. The basketball community mourns the loss of one of its greatest ever players and ambassadors.

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"But even more so it mourns a father and daughter whose love for one another was evident for all to see when they were sharing their love of the game."

Fans have gathered outside of the Staples Center, the home of the Los Angeles Lakers, to honour Bryant.

Makeshift shrines have been built with flowers and signs and other items at the gates of the stadium.

Fans of Kobe Bryant mourn at a memorial to him in front of Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, after word of the Lakers star's death in a helicopter crash.People gather at a memorial near Staples Center after the death of Laker legend Kobe Bryant

A love of helicopters

Ten years ago, GQ Magazine wrote about how Bryant regularly took his own helicopter to work.

"He takes a private helicopter from Orange County, where he lives with his wife and two children, to every home game. It's a nice dash of glitz, a touch of showbiz (but) Bryant says the helicopter is just another tool for maintaining his body. It's no different than his weights or his whirlpool tubs or his custom-made Nikes.

"Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can't sit in a car for two hours. The helicopter, therefore, ensures that he gets to Staples Center feeling fresh, that his body is warm and loose and fluid as mercury when he steps onto the court."

The chopper was adorned with his logo.

In this 2001 photo Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant jumps over a row of fans after saving the ball from going out of bounds.

Respected baseball coach on helicopter

John Altobelli, the longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College who was killed along with his wife and daughter in the helicopter crash, coached players who went to play in the major leagues.

The 56-year-old Altobelli died along with his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, who was about 13 and played on the same basketball team as Bryant's daughter Gianna.

Altobelli spent 27 seasons as coach at the community college in Costa Mesa, California. The team won a state championship last year and Altobelli was named national coach of the year. He led the team to more than 700 victories and four state titles.

Among the players he coached were future major leaguers Jeff McNeil, now with the New York Mets, and Donnie Murphy, who played for six big league teams from 2004-14. McNeil played for Altobelli in 2012 with the Brewster Whitecaps, a summer collegiate team in the Cape Cod League, ESPN reported.

With AP and CNN

Source: 9News

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