News of the death of U.S. basketball legend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash has caused worldwide dismay and grief. The Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose H. Gomez, wrote on Twitter, "I pray for him and his family."
Bryant, the former Los Angeles Lakers star player, died Sunday in a helicopter accident in California. Police say nine people were killed, including one of Bryant's four daughters. He said his wife Vanessa was not on board. He was saddened by the Catholic's tragic death, Archbishop Gomez wrote: "May he rest in peace and may the Blessed Virgin Mary give comfort to his loved ones."
Sports world mourns Kobe Bryant
The sports world is in shock. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti confirmed the helicopter accident near Los Angeles at noon (local time). "LA mourns with the Bryant family," he tweeted. Police told a news conference that nine people had died, but did not name names. According to the mayor, Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna was also among the victims.
"This is terrible news," U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted. The North American professional league NBA paid tribute to Bryant as "one of the most extraordinary players" in basketball history. The NBA family was "devastated" that Bryant and his daughter Gianna had tragically died, league commissioner Adam Silver announced. Initially, the U.S. gossip portal TMZ had reported the death of the 41-year-old former top star of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant was on his way to a basketball tournament in the town of Calabasas, not far from Los Angeles, with his daughter and other passengers, according to several U.S. media outlets. The former LA Lakers player is considered one of the greatest basketball players in sports history. He was married and had four daughters. "Unreal. Kobe dead at 41. 'Prayers go out to the families of all five victims,' former German NBA pro Detlef Schrempf wrote on Twitter.
In foggy weather, the Sikorsky S-76 aircraft had crashed and burst into flames in the morning (local time). The fire made it difficult for rescuers to get to the scene of the accident, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing a spokesman. The newspaper cites other sources as saying that the helicopter had taken off from Orange County, Bryant's home in southeast Los Angeles; Calabasas is about 30 kilometers west of the city.
Scores of fans gathered outside Staples Center, home of the Lakers, that morning to mourn Bryant and lay wreaths. The Grammys were to be awarded in the hall that evening. The San Antonio Spurs and champion Toronto Raptors honored Bryant in their game, in which they let the 24 seconds allowed pass without action on the first attacks. During his time with the Lakers, 24 was his number in the backcourt.
Bryant was one of the most successful and influential professionals in basketball history. "Kobe means so much to the league, to basketball worldwide," German legend Dirk Nowitzki also gushed when Bryant ended his career in April 2016 after 20 years in the NBA. "He was the Michael Jordan of our generation."
Bryant won five titles with his Los Angeles Lakers, was voted to the NBA's best team 15 times – no one achieved this more often. The six-foot-two shooting guard once scored 81 points in a game in 2006. His 33,643 points in regular-season games are surpassed only by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and LeBron James – the latter of whom passed Bryant for third on the all-time list as recently as Saturday (local time).
In 2004, a case against him was dropped on suspicion of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee. Prosecutors dropped the charges after the woman declined to participate in the trial. Bryant had always said sexual acts occurred with her consent.
Even though Bryant was unable to match his glory days towards the end of his career and repeatedly missed the playoffs with LA, he still managed a hollywood finish. At the age of 37, he trumpeted one more time with 60 points in his final game and was celebrated in a golden shower of confetti by stars such as Lakers hero Jack Nicholson, Jay-Z and David Beckham.
Bryant grew up the son of then-NBA player Joe Bryant and moved with his family to Italy at times during his childhood and adolescence when his father was active there. His parents named him after the Kobe steak they saw on a menu, according to official NBA biography. In 1996, Bryant came to the NBA without having previously attended college. The Lakers secured the rights to the great talent after pulling off a momentous trade with the Charlotte Hornets.
Early in his career, Bryant took the best basketball player in history, Michael Jordan, as a benchmark, striving for his greatness with unbridled ambition. Playing alongside imposing center Shaquille O'Neal, Bryant won his first three NBA championships from 2000 to 2002, but his co-star was named most valuable player of the Finals series each time.
His farewell after his last game, when he spoke the words "Mamba Out" in reference to his top name and put down the hall microphone, achieved iconic status and were imitated even by then U.S. President Barack Obama. Now the news of Bryant's death caused a shock that went far beyond the basketball world.