LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter were among nine killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. Bryant was 41.
“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant, and his daughter, Gianna,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver in part. “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 extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary.”
Bryant and his daughter were among nine killed when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter he was traveling in went down in Calabasas around 9:45 a.m. Sunday.
“To hear this news this morning, frankly, at first I was shocked,” said Jerry West, former Lakers general manager. “I really felt like a surrogate father to him … this has been one of the most horrible days of our life.”
Other victims identified in the crash included Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, John’s wife, and daughter Allyssa.
“I got a text message from my older brother asking if I had heard about Kobe’s chopper incident. He didn’t even know that they had been on that chopper. I didn’t hear anything about it. I started checking internets and everything was completely overloaded,” said the victim’s brother, Tony Altobelli.
“To look at this field is the perfect testament to my brother. This field was not in the greatest shape when he took over the program and it’s now one of the top programs in the nation,” Altobelli told CBSLA’s Michele Gile. “It’s a legacy that unfortunately was cut off way too short.”
The husband of Christina Mauser posted on Facebook that she died in the helicopter crash. Mauser was a basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Newport Beach, where Kobe’s daughter attended school. Mauser’s hubsband says he and his kids are devastated.
Sarah Chester and her middle school aged daughter Payton were on also on board the helicopter piloted by Ara Zobayan.
Reports indicated that the flight had originated out of Long Beach. During an afternoon news conference, officials said they would not be identifying the other victims until next of kin had been notified.
CBSLA Sports Director Jim Hill, who knew Bryant personally, said he was an avid flyer who enjoyed flying on helicopters.
“This was his normal mode of transportation. Most of the time, he flew from Newport Beach,” Hill said.
“We all know that Kobe loved flying on helicopters,” said Hill. “The cause of the crash has not been confirmed but there is some speculation that weather had something to do with it.” The National Weather Service reported that while winds were light, visibility was low in the area.
The crash remains under investigation. The NTSB said it planned to look into the history of the pilot and the plane, among other aspects. It remains unclear whether the helicopter had a black box.
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“Many of us are just shaking out here,” said Brittney Hopper, reporting from the GRAMMYS red carpet. “It started off as a joyous morning has turned into a devastating, shocking, red carpet here.”
The Associated Press reported that Bryant on Saturday was passed by LeBron James for third place on the NBA’s career scoring list, getting the milestone on a driving layup against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
“People are going to miss his smile and just miss him because Kobe had an aura about him. I thought he was gonna live forever, I thought he was invincible. He played like that, he walked like that, he was just a confident young man,” Magic Johnson told CBSLA’s Jim Hill.
“The city needs heroes, we need our heroes to be here and this is not a good day for the city of Los Angeles because we needed Kobe to still be around,” Johnson said. “Our kids who idolized him, our fans who idolized him. There was more for him to do, he died way too early.”
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-around game and a relentless competitive ethic, AP reported. 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, the wire service said.
“I remember the night of his retirement at the Staples Center … when he came back out with a towel wrapped around his shoulders, he said, ‘I’m out, Mamba out,’ ” Hill recalled.
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“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,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said via Twitter.
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.
— Mayor Eric Garcetti (@MayorOfLA) January 26, 2020
Governor Gavin Newsom also issued a statement:
“We mourn the tragic and untimely death of a California icon and basketball legend, Kobe Bryant. In his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, he made history with raw talent and unparalleled dedication that raised the bar and paved the way for a newer generation of players.
“Despite winning five NBA championships and two gold Olympic medals, and achieving countless accolades in the athletics world, he also helped improve the lives of youth and families through the Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Bryant Foundation, and was an outspoken advocate for combating homelessness through partnerships with organizations such as My Friend’s Place and Step Up on Second.
“Our deepest condolences go to his wife, family, colleagues, friends and fans. He was taken too soon and he will be missed.”
In Newport Coast, where Bryant resided, neighbors expressed their devastation, with many who heard the news going there to pay their respects.
“It’s not even about sports. To be a part of what he meant to the city, he was the fabric of the city,” said Chris Hayre, the former director of corporate sponsorship for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Tributes were being held as a result of Bryant’s passing, including during the Raptors-Spurs game, where the teams did not participate in the tip-off.
Remarkable moment to start the Raptors-Spurs game. pic.twitter.com/thmt9ZU1Ra
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 26, 2020
Other celebrities and athletes like Shaq were reacting to Bryant’s death. Shaq said via Twitter:
“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.”
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 pic.twitter.com/pigHywq3c1
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 26, 2020
President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama both took to Twitter. Trump noted that this was “terrible news,” while Obama expressed his condolences:
“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers couldn’t hold back his emotions prior to Sunday’s game against the Orlando Magic.
“The news is just devastating to everyone who knew him, knew him a long time. He means a lot to me obviously, he was such a great opponent, it’s what you want in sports,” said a very emotional, and tearful Doc Rivers, the Los Angeles Clippers head coach. “He had that DNA that very few athletes can ever have, the Tiger Woods, the Michael Jordans. I was getting to know him more since he retired. This is a tough one. We have to go play, the news is just devastating for Vanessa, his family. It’s just so many people he touched.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of fans converged on the Staples Center with flowers, basketballs and jerseys to pay their respects.
“This is the house that Kobe built,” said one fan. “This is his domain and I felt compelled, as his fan, to pay our respects to Kobe.”