NBA LAKERS LEGEND KOBE BRYANT DIES IN HELICOPTER CRASH AT 41

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[Death of Kobe Bryant]
Bryant, the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft, was an 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, 12-time member of the All-Defensive team and was the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2008...Bryant won five NBA championships with the Lakers including a three-peat championships from 1999 to 2002.
Photo: Facebook

NBA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died today in a helicopter crash. He was 41.

Bryant died with eight others--including his daughter, Gianna, 13--in Calabasas, California when the helicopter went down around 10:00 a.m. local time. No one survived the crash.

Others who perished are: Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his daughter and wife, Alyssa Altobelli, and, Keri Altobell, assistant girls’ basketball coach Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton Chester. The pilot has not been identified.

Bryant often flew on helicopters since his playing days. Eyewitnesses say the helicopter engine sputtered before it went down. The helicopter was apparently operating under “Special Visual Flight Rules,” because of foggy weather.  These rules, also called SVFR, are special clearance rules given to pilots to fly in worse weather conditions than under the standard Visual Flight Rules (VFR).

The crash is currently under investigation.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti released a statement on Kobe Bryant's death:

Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed, and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court — and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved. He will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes. This is a moment that leaves us struggling to find words that express the magnitude of shock and sorrow we are all feeling right now, and I am keeping Kobe’s entire family in my prayers at this time of unimaginable grief," Garcetti said.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement:

"For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary ... but he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability."

Many current and past NBA players are reacting to Bryant's untimely death in tweets and statements.

Bulls Hall-of-Famer Michael Jordan released the following statement:

"I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe's and Gianna's passing. Words can't describe the pain I'm 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 — and took great pride in his daughter's love for the game of basketball. Yvette joins me in sending my deepest condolences to Vanessa, the Lakers organization and basketball fans around the world."

Lakers Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson said the following:

"As I try to write this post, my mind is racing. I’m in disbelief and have been crying all morning over this devastating news that Kobe and his young daughter, Gigi have passed away in a helicopter crash. Cookie and I are heartbroken. My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone. It’s hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players...He was such an icon but also did so much for LA. He was passionate about serving the homeless and was an advocate for women's basketball. Coaching his daughter’s basketball team brought him so much happiness..."

Shaquille O'Neal tweeted the following:

"There’s no words to express the pain I'm going through with this tragedy of losing my niece Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW. Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah."

"Nooooooooooo God please No!" said Miami Heat great Dwayne Wade. "This is not real right now," said former Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce. "I’m stunned. Words can’t even come close to describing it. Just an incredibly sad and tragic day," said Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen. "I’m heartbroken by this news, you were a true legend, and friend. Rest In Peace @kobebryant, my thoughts and prayers to his wife and kids," said former San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker. "This is piercing my soul, prayers to the Bryant family... Hard to even comprehend," said Indiana Pacer great Reggie Miller. "I’m truly lost for words! We’ve been friends since we were 12 years old and to lose you and your daughter like this is unthinkable. I’m so heartbroken right now ! I love you my brother," said former Indiana Pacer forward-center Jermaine O'Neal.

"Man I don’t even know where to start. I started playing ball because of KOBE after watching the 2010 finals. I had never watched ball before that and that finals was the turning point of my life. I WANTED TO BE LIKE KOBE. I’m so FREAKING SAD right now!!!! RIP LEGEND", said Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embid. "Beyond devastated... my big brother... I can’t, I just can’t believe it," said former teammate Paul Gasol. "Please no. Please god no. It can’t be true," said current Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love. "Rip @kobebryant doesn’t feel real.... my heart goes out to his family and loved ones,"  said Detroit Pistons center  Andre Drummond.

"Damn. RIP Mamba. May your memory be a blessing," said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Bryant, the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft, was an 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, 12-time member of the All-Defensive team and was the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2008. He led the league in scoring twice, in 2006 and 2007, and was the NBA All-Star Game MVP four times in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Bryant won five NBA championships with the Lakers including a three-peat championships from 1999 to 2002, among the many other accolades he achieved--including winning an Academy Award (in the Best Animated Short Film category) for "Dear Basketball," which was based on a poem he wrote.

Kobe Bryant was to have been inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in a few months.

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