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Kobe Bryant, daughter among 9 killed in crash

Five-time champion, one of the NBA’s biggest stars, was 41

- Jeff Zillgitt

Kobe Bryant, one of basketball’s greatest players and most masterful scorers of all time, was among nine people who died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Bryant was 41.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said at an afternoon news conference that until the coroner identified the bodies he would not confirm any of those who died. But he did say the manifest listed nine people on board.

Early reports had five people killed.

Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also was killed in the crash. In a statement released by the league, NBA commission­er Adam Silver said, “The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.”

A person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Gianna and her father were en route to an Amateur Athletic Union basketball game Sunday morning when the helicopter crashed.

Among those also killed was John Altobelli, the 56-year-old head baseball coach at Orange Coast College. School spokespers­on Juan Gutierrez confirmed to USA TODAY in an email that Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and one of their two daughters, Alyssa, were also aboard the helicopter.

The county Sheriff ’s Department said all aboard were killed and that the investigat­ion was continuing. Firefighte­rs doused a quarter-acre brush fire at the crash site, fire Capt. Tony Imbrenda said.

The helicopter crashed in Calabasas, a city of about 25,000 people in the Santa Monica Mountains about 30 miles

northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Firefighte­rs had to hike to the crash site, according to chief Daryl Osby of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Bryant retired in 2016 as a five-time NBA champion, 11-time All-NBA firstteam selection, 2008 MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP, 18-time All-Star and four-time All-Star MVP. He spent his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He also won gold medals with USA Basketball at the 2000 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics.

After the 2015-16 season, Bryant was the third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 33,643 points, but on Saturday in Philadelph­ia, Lakers star LeBron James scored 29 points and passed Bryant on the scoring list.

After the game, James spoke fondly of his admiration for Bryant.

“I’m happy just to be in any conversati­on with Kobe “Bean” Bryant, one of the all-time greatest players, one of the alltime greatest Lakers,” James said. “The man has two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It’s just crazy.”

Bryant tweeted: “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect to my brother #33644”

Bryant was accused of a sexual assault in Colorado in 2003, but prosecutor­s dropped the case after the accuser declined to testify in a criminal trial. The two sides settled a civil lawsuit just before the criminal trial was set to begin.

Bryant settled into post-basketball life with a variety of projects. He won an Oscar in 2018 for his animated short film “Dear Basketball,” opened the Mamba Sports Academy training facility to help athletes improve and oversees a series of sports fantasy children’s books.

“You got to do what you love to do,” Bryant recently told USA TODAY. “I love telling stories. I love inspiring kids or providing them with tools that are going to help them.”

Born in Philadelph­ia on Aug. 23, 1978, Bryant was a prep phenom. In 1996, he was named USA TODAY’s boys high school player of the year. Bryant entered the NBA draft and was selected by Charlotte and then traded to the Lakers in 1996. It was the beginning of a Hall of Fame career, and in all likelihood, he will be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.

Bryant had a high-flying game and was a gifted offensive player with an array of moves and shots that made him one of the toughest players to defend. He was fierce competitor with his win-at-all-costs Mamba Mentality.

“He has zero flaws offensivel­y, zero,” James said. “You backed off of him, he could shoot the three. You body him up a little bit, he can go around you. He could shoot the midrange. He could post . ... That’s something I admired as well ... where you just felt you were immortal offensivel­y.”

With teammate Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers had formed one of the great teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s, winning three consecutiv­e championsh­ips with Phil Jackson coaching. The Bryant-O’Neal relationsh­ip wasn’t always smooth and eventually led the Lakers to trade O’Neal.

Los Angeles lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 Finals but won consecutiv­e titles in 2009 and 2010 against Orlando and Boston. Bryant was named Finals MVP after those series.

He never reached the Finals again and was slowed by injuries, including a torn Achilles, late in his career.

 ?? HARRISON HILL/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Kobe Bryant played for 20 seasons, all of them with the Los Angeles Lakers. He retired in 2016 as a five-time NBA champion.
HARRISON HILL/USA TODAY SPORTS Kobe Bryant played for 20 seasons, all of them with the Los Angeles Lakers. He retired in 2016 as a five-time NBA champion.
 ?? JAYNE KAMIN-ONCEA/ USA TODAY SPORTS ?? The helicopter, identified as a Sikorsky S-76, slammed into a hillside Sunday in Calabasas, Calif.
JAYNE KAMIN-ONCEA/ USA TODAY SPORTS The helicopter, identified as a Sikorsky S-76, slammed into a hillside Sunday in Calabasas, Calif.
 ??  ?? Gianna Bryant
Gianna Bryant

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