Former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, whose international stardom transcended basketball, was killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday. He was 41.
Bryant rocketed to fame as an 18-year-old and played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years, 18 of them as an All-Star, and winning five NBA championships. His death sent shockwaves around the world.
“This is not just a Los Angeles phenomenon, not just a basketball phenomenon or even just a US phenomenon,” said Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds, reporting from the scene of the crash in Calabasas, California.
“Kobe Bryant was known from Beijing to Berlin and beyond. He was an incredibly charismatic figure who people identified with so I think not only will people in LA and California be mourning but people all around the world will be feeling some grief in their heart tonight.”
The helicopter crashed around 10am (18:00 GMT) in hilly terrain about 48km (30 miles) northwest of central Los Angeles, officials said. A witness told Al Jazeera that she heard two bangs and a loud explosion.
“There were no survivors. We have a manifest that indicates there were nine people on board the aircraft, the pilot plus eight individuals,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told a news conference, declining to identify any victims.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed that Bryant and one of his four daughters, 13-year-old Gianna, were among those killed and sent condolences to Bryant’s wife, Vanessa.
“He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary,” Silver said.
Bryant was known to use a helicopter for travel dating to his days as a star player.
The US Federal Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76, saying in a statement the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate
A five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant was nicknamed “The Black Mamba” and considered one of the greatest basketball players ever.
Reaction to his death was swift and moments of silence were observed before some of Sunday’s NBA games.
In San Antonio, the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs allowed the 24-second shot clock to expire on each of their first possessions in tribute to Bryant’s jersey number, 24.
“I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling,” said Michael Jordan, who won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls.
“Kobe was an amazing dad who loved his family deeply – and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball,” Jordan said.
Stunned fans gathered near the Lakers’ home arena – the Staples Center in central Los Angeles – surrounding a wreath with the message: “Kobe we love you RIP.”
Some in the crowd dabbed tears as others laid flowers and basketball shoes at the wreath. Fans wore his No 24 and No 8 jerseys, breaking the sombre mood with occasional chants of “Kobe, Kobe”.
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-round 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.”