US basketball player Kobe Bryant killed in helicopter crash

  • Video report by ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore

Former basketball player and five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant has been killed in a helicopter crash in California, at the age of 41.

The crash happened in Calabasas, California at around 10am local time (6pm GMT), killing everyone on board.

US media are reporting that Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was also killed in the crash.

At a press conference, the LA County Sheriff's Department said there were nine people on board the helicopter, the pilot and eight passengers, but there were no survivors.

City of Calabasas officials says the helicopter went down in a remote field, but nobody on the ground was hurt.

Firefighters work at the scene of a helicopter crash where former NBA star Kobe Bryant died. Credit: AP

Bryant is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time and played for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout his 20-year NBA career before retiring in 2016.

He was the third-leading scorer in NBA history when he retired and held that spot up 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 @KingJames,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet. “Much respect my brother.”

James told after the game: "I'm just happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greats to ever play."

He said 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.”

Bryant won an Academy Award in 2018 for his contributions to "Dear Basketball," an animated short about his relationship with the game.

Speaking on stage when receiving the award, Bryant said: "My daughter gave me the best piece of advice. I was a little worried about turning this into a film.

"I've never done that, something like that before. And we're in a house and we're talking about it as a family and my little 11-year-old Gianna goes 'Well, dad, you always tell us to go after our dreams.

"So man up.' She's 11. 'Man up.' So I had to man up and go for it."

Bryant won two Olympic gold medals, was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2008 and was Finals MVP on two occasions and an 18-time All-Star.

When he announced his plans to retire in 2015, NBA commissioner Adam Silver called Bryant "one of the greatest players in the history of our game."

  • Kobe Bryant talks about her daughter's love for basketball

Bryant - who was born in Philadelphia in 1978 - was drafted at number 13 by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 but was immediately traded to the Lakers.

The Lakers retired both of Bryant's shirt numbers - eight and 24 - in a ceremony in December 2017, when then franchise president Magic Johnson said: "We're here to celebrate the greatest who has ever worn the purple and gold."

Tributes have poured in from across the world for the basketball legend.

Bryant speaks to fans after the last NBA basketball game of his career. Credit: AP

Shaquille O'Neal, a former team-mate of Bryant, tweeted: "There's no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice 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."

Former England striker Gary Lineker wrote: "Oh no. How awful. One of the greatest sportsmen of our lifetime. Utterly tragic", while current England forward Raheem Sterling wrote: "Rest easy Legend".

Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady said: "We miss you already Kobe" and retired NBA star Dwyane Wade wrote: "Nooooooooooo God please No!".

Former sprinter Usain Bolt tweeted: "Still can't believe ?@kobebryant."

Tennis player Andy Murray's Instagram story read: "This has hit me hard. Thinking of all his family, friends and colleagues."

US president Donald Trump tweeted: "Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news!"

Actor Idris Elba tweeted: "Kobe is G. Will always be remembered @kobebryant A Sad day."

Actress and television personality Whoopi Goldberg said Bryant was a "hero" to her family in a tribute on Twitter.

"RIP Kobe, hero to many including my grandson, extraordinary athlete and always kind to me and my family. My deepest condolences to his family," she said.