UPDATE: It was just announced that Kobe's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was one of the passengers on the helicopter. She did not survive.
Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players in professional history and most popular athletes of the last several decades, was killed on Sunday in a private helicopter crash.
He was 41 years old.
TMZ was the first outlet to report this stunning and tragic news, but it has since been confirmed by a local ABC affiliated, among other publications.
With details still coming in, this is what we know at the moment:
- The accident took place in Calabasas, California.
- Kobe was one of nine people on board.
- All nine are believed to have been killed.
- Kobe's wife, Vanessa, was NOT among these passengers.
According to TMZ, per onlookers close to the scene, the vehicle's engine sputtered loudly before fell to the ground... at which time a fire broke out and authorities were called to the scene.
But there were no survivors.
Bryant is considered one of the greatest NBA players in history.
He made 18 All-Star teams during his 20 year career, all of which were spent with the Los Angeles Lakers.
He was a first-round pick in the 1996 draft, winning five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVPs - and he was the league MVP in 2008.
Kobe was just in the news on Saturday night, too, because LeBron James passed him for third place on the league's all-time scoring list, prompting a congratulatory Tweet from Bryant and effusive praise in his direction from LeBron.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” wrote Bryant on Saturday night in what would prove to be his final tweet. “Much respect my brother.”
Bryant concluded the message with an emoji of a bicep flexing, and the hashtag “#33644,” one point more than he scored in his legendary career.
As for James? This is what he wrote upon passing Kobe on the scoring list:
It's another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school.
Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration. It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation.
He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do.
So, just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it's very humbling and it's dope.
Kobe's a legend, that's for damn sure.
Concluded LeBron last night:
"I'm happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant. One of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers.
"The man got two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It's just crazy."
Among other professional accolades:
Bryant was considered a lock to be among the next class inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, set to be announced next month -- and once scored 81 points in a game... the second-most ever by one player in one contest.
The Lakers famously retired both of Kobe's jerseys, number 8 and 24 ... the only player in team history to receive such an honor.
He even won an Academy Award in 2018 for his short film, "Dear Basketball."
Bryant also made 15 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Defensive Teams and led the league in scoring for two seasons.
As the truly shocking news of his death has spread around the Internet, an endless array of celebrities and athletes have expressed their surprise and sorrow.
Kobe Bryant leaves behind his wife and three daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
13-year-old Gianna tragically passed away alongside her father.
This is as unexpected and horrifying a death as the sports world has experienced in a very long time.
We can expect to hear plenty more about what happened, along with reading plenty more tributes about the star, in the days ahead.
May Kobe Bryant rest in peace.
UPDATE: Michael Jordan has issued this 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.